Professional soccer returns to Austin in 2019

Rendering of new soccer stadium at Circuit of the Americas (Courtesy COTA)
Rendering of new soccer stadium at Circuit of the Americas (Courtesy COTA)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Division II soccer players will once again race across the pitch to score goals in Austin, after the United Soccer League announced Wednesday that it will return to the city for the 2019 season.

The USL will call the Circuit of the Americas in southeast Austin its home. The new professional team will use the same field as FC Barcelona, which announced earlier this year that it would start a soccer camp at CoTA. In order to accommodate USL fans, 5,000 seats will be put in surrounding the field.

The Austin Aztex, a team that joined the USL in 2015, stopped playing after the 2015 season. The team was playing at House Park but finished the season at the Reeves Athletic Complex after House Park was damaged during the 2015 Memorial Day flooding.

Circuit of the Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein is the new leader of the organization’s ownership group and has been working over the past two years to bring professional soccer back to Austin.

“I’m excited to help bring professional soccer back to Austin and want to thank the USL for helping in the process to secure a suitable venue to host a high-level soccer experience for our fans,” Epstein said. “Preparations for kickoff in 2019 are already underway.”

A big difference between the new team’s games and Aztex games will be the ability to sell beer. The Aztex couldn’t sell beer in the school stadiums the team played in. At Circuit of the Americas, beer will be served, and city officials hope it will bring in more revenue.

Austin Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Policy Drew Scheberle says for both CoTA and the city of Austin, bringing in a USL team is a chance to expand.

“It brings in new opportunities over at the Circuit of the Americas to diversify the entertainment base, and it’s going to bring in some revenue to the city coffers,” Scheberle said.

Scheberle also says it is only the beginning of the city’s push to bring in a major league sports team.

“To get to an MLS franchise, you need a USL franchise,” he said. “You need to be able to build up your fan base and build up your value case.”

Scheberle says the new team won’t only benefit fans, but thousands of children in the area who play soccer competitively and hope to one day play professionally after college.

“We’ve got a lot of talent in soccer here in Austin among youth,” he said, “And we’re getting more and more onto the map because of the amazing clubs that are here. What we haven’t had is that translation that a pro club or an international club could bring.”

Michael Reynoso, one of the managers at SoccerZone Lakeline, says the new USL team and the potential of bringing in a MLS team down the road will likely create new opportunities for talented young athletes in the area.

“A team coming here in Austin is going to help a lot, because now you’re going to see more academy teams coming up, and maybe they’ll come up with an academy team of their own,” Reynoso said. “That’s always going to give more opportunity to a lot of the local kids to join and possibly go into the next level, if they wish.”

A spokesperson for CoTA says the new USL team will have a new team name but that won’t be released for several more months.

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