AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin is the largest city in the country without a major league sports franchise, but Major League Soccer may present the best opportunity to change that.
“We really have the demographics to support soccer here,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Sheryl Cole who is sponsoring a resolution for a feasibility study into MLS expansion.
The resolution mentions the popularity of soccer in Central Texas as well as the success of the Austin Aztex. MLS teams have drafted eight players from the Aztex, a team in the United Soccer Leagues Premier Developmental League.
Economic impact and potential stadium locations for home games are both key issues the feasibility study will examine. The resolution states MLS Commissioner Don Garber recently identified Austin for potential expansion and that MLS teams have traditionally found success in stadiums located downtown.
The University of Texas, with their 20,000 seat Mike Myers Soccer Stadium, has been listed as a stakeholder in the resolution.
“I cannot speak for the university, but we hope they will be willing participants in the feasibility study,” said Cole. “We want to keep location in the urban core, close in and around downtown.”
The Aztex currently play in the 6,500 seat house park. MLS games average crowds of near 19,000.
But during a championship run in 2013, the Aztex brought crowds of more than 4,000 and fan support blossomed, led by a group known as Elerby’s Army. Aztex owner Rene Van De Zande thinks the success of the Aztex could be a good omen for a future MLS franchise.
“ They have reached that after spending years and years going through the division and then eventually make the jump to MLS,” said Van De Zande about MLS clubs who started in lower tier leagues. “They work for many years on strong grassroots and building the fan base to sustain MLS soccer.”
The Aztex have offered a letter of support in the city’s efforts to pursue an MLS team.
However, Austin may still be trailing in the game for a new soccer team. San Antonio has already started a petition to bring the MLS to their city and received support in the form of a tweet from famed actress Eva Longoria.