FC Cincinnati’s addition to Major League Soccer will have no bearing on the fate of Ohio’s existing club, according to league commissioner Don Garber.
Speaking in Cincinnati during Tuesday’s announcement, Garber said the expansion makes it no more likely or unlikely that Columbus Crew SC is relocated to Austin, Texas.
“It really has no effect on (Columbus) at all,” Garber told ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman. “We believe in this city. We believe in the state of Ohio.”
But Garber reiterated the view that Columbus is not sustainable on its current path.
“If we thought we could be as successful in Columbus as we are here in Cincinnati, then I don’t think we would be having these discussions about potentially moving the team, but no decision’s been made,” Garber said, according to the Dayton Daily News. “There are still discussions going on as recently as two weeks ago.”
Last October, Crew SC investor-operator Anthony Precourt announced his intention to move the club to Austin, Texas. Precourt and the league are being sued by the city of Columbus and the state of Ohio, which argue the club cannot relocate without first giving interested buyers the opportunity to keep the team in Columbus.
Precourt, with the blessing of the league, is exploring a move to Austin because of what he says are subpar business metrics.
“Is there a way that the (Columbus Partnership) could deliver the kind of corporate support that (FC Cincinnati) has playing in a lower division?” Garber said on Tuesday, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier. “The Mercy deal (with FC Cincinnati) is one of the top sponsorships in Major League Soccer.”
Cincinnati, set to become the league’s 26th team, rapidly ascended as a viable MLS city. Playing in the United Soccer League last year, the club recorded average attendance of 21,000, higher than many MLS clubs.
Leaders of Columbus’ grassroots #SaveTheCrew movement are welcoming FC Cincinnati, saying an in-state rivalry would be good for both clubs and the league as a whole.
Garber told reporters the league is still working with the Columbus Partnership—a consortium of business leaders—to find a viable path forward in Columbus.
Meanwhile, Austin City Council is weighing Precourt’s proposal for a new soccer stadium at McKalla Place, north of downtown Austin.
May 29, 2018; Cincinnati, OH, USA; FC Cincinnati president and general manager Jeff Berding reacts as fans gather for the Cincinnati MLS expansion team announcement during a viewing party at Fountain Square. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports