Following up on Tuesday’s announcement to select fans about an apparent launch event for Austin FC on Jan. 15, the prospective MLS club sent out a press release through its Austin-based PR firm confirming the event.
Though the release didn’t explicitly say it would be the launch event for the team, it touted Tuesday’s event as a “celebration event to make a historic declaration about the future of Major League Soccer in Austin,” involving MLS commissioner Don Garber, Austin FC Chairman and CEO Anthony Precourt and Austin mayor Steve Adler.
The event at Rustic Tap, one of the well-heeled bars in the downtown entertainment district colloquially known as West Sixth, will feature more than just the dignitaries mentioned in the release.
It will also involve Austin Anthem, formerly MLS in Austin, the supporters’ group for the new club. The group will show support for the new team during the invitation-only event (a select number of fans will be admitted through a lottery system).
The group started in 2013 as a coalition of local soccer fans from different fan communities, brought together with the hope of attracting the league’s attention to Austin as a potential expansion site. Founder Josh Babetski published an article on the group’s Medium site in February 2017 predicting a team could come to Austin via relocation — previously only done once in the league’s history when the original San Jose Clash, adopting the historic Earthquakes moniker in 1999, moved to Houston and became the Dynamo following the 2005 season.
Babetski predicted it would be the Precourt-owned Columbus Crew SC. Eight months later, news broke that Precourt was looking to move the Crew to Austin, setting off an eventful 15 months culminating in today’s “relaunch” of a Crew remaining in Columbus with new ownership, and with key members of the Precourt Sports Ventures team, led by team president Andy Loughnane, relocating to Austin in advance of Austin FC’s opening MLS match in 2021.
Babetski noted that when he started what is now Austin Anthem, he “was highly confident that Austin was a great market for a professional soccer team,” but marvels over the five-year journey that’s led him and his fellow Austinite to next week’s celebration.
“We’ve built a rapidly growing supporters group and an engaged community, we’ve built friendships across all parts of the city, and have demonstrated to the league and Precourt Sports Ventures that our city is worthy of Austin FC. We will never forget our responsibility as fans to always support our city, our club, and each other,” Babetski said.
Other members of Austin Anthem are thrilled the city — reigning two-time champion of U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Place to Live in the U.S.” — is getting an MLS team.
“What started out as a dream is incredibly turning into a reality,” said Jay Torres. “The soccer community in Austin has been craving for this day for a long time, and Austin FC is already bringing people from many backgrounds and cultures together. Whenever you can accomplish that, that’s a win for everyone.”
“This is the culmination of years of hard work by the Austin soccer family,” added Tony Cardone. “We’re excited to bring the beautiful game to our beautiful city. In the years to come, I know we’ll be able to look back at this landmark day” — referring to next Tuesday’s event — “as the starting point for something truly wonderful.”
Jorge Chavez noted a dichotomy echoing what Mayor Adler has pointed out in his efforts to sell City Council members and Austinites on the fence on bringing soccer to Austin — while it’s a cosmopolitan city in many respects, it still lacks a top-tier pro sports franchise. An MLS franchise brings that to Austin via a global game many of its citizens already embrace. Loughnane, speaking to Pro Soccer USA last week, noted that Austin is a very “soccer-savvy” city, and Austin Anthem members are eager to express that on Tuesday.
As Chavez said, “We can’t wait to show Austin off to the rest of the world.”