‘In a city of legends, something new is rising. This is Austin FC’
Austin, Texas. Famously the birthplace of the pseudonym ‘Stone Cold Steve Austin,’ the beer-swigging, stunner inflicting, WWE wrestler from the late 90s and early 2000s. The capital of the great desert state of Texas, Austin boasts a population just shy of a million. With its long relentless sunny days it is also regarded as one of the driest cities in the United States, with desert temperatures soaring in the summer months, conditions not exactly conducive to sport.
One thing Austin has not got is a professional sports team, until now. Herein lies the birth of Austin FC.
Across the state of Texas, there are 12 professional men and women’s teams across five sports, American football, baseball, basketball, football (soccer), and ice hockey. As a state, Texas hosts’ some of the finest teams and players in their individual sports.
Prior to the birth of Austin FC, football (soccer) fans in Texas had to head to Dallas for their fix of roundball action. FC Dallas based in the suburb of Frisco, an arduous four hours north of Austin, some going for a home match for even the most diehard of supporters. The FC Dallas franchise have been competing in the MLS for a number of years now, with Texans everywhere having no other available ‘local’ team. Now they will have a local (ish) rival in Austin FC in their midst.
All the talk around the MLS in recent years has surrounded the inception of Inter Miami CF – David Beckham’s new franchise. The new organisation has been accepted and entered into the league for this season, they played their first match in March 2020, prior to the postponement of the league and have continued in the restricted ‘MLS Is Back’ completion, albeit with little success.
Not to be left behind, and let’s face it, if you’re going to catch the eye in America, you need the glitz and at least a little glamour. Austin FC has an added Hollywood factor of their own – A-list film star Matthew McConaughey, who was born in the state of Texas, is on board as a part-owner at Austin.
The whole idea stems back to one man – Josh Babetski, president and founder of fan group ‘Austin Anthem’ started the dream of an MLS club in his city in 2013. Growing from himself and a Twitter account, Austin FC has come a long way over seven years. Officially the club was founded in January 2019, however, in truth, they have been in the making for much longer as a project.
Austin FC are building from scratch, including their infrastructure. Instead of using a pre-built stadia in the area, they have opted for their own purpose-built stadium. A spectacular 20,500-seater facility is ready to accept it’s first excited supporters through the turnstiles when circumstances allow.
The club has already hit its first outgrowing itself snag before it’s even played a match. One issue is they may have undersold themselves by way of capacity, the club has received around 39,000 deposits for season tickets, it seems the locals have more interest than the owners anticipated. On the streets of Austin, this newly formed team is fast becoming a hot topic, anything to stop the Stone Cold chatter I suppose.
Far from being merely a face behind the club acting as a token celebrity owner and simply turning up for the big photoshoots, McConaughey, to his credit, has been heavily involved since his ownership was made public. McConaughey’s enthusiasm for the project has been impassioned and a refreshing change.
McConaughey forms part of an ownership group looking to deliver the city of Austin the sporting success it feels it deserves, and perhaps until now has been starved of. Businessman Anthony Precourt is the majority owner and chief executive officer, the group seemingly sees the new franchise as an investment opportunity, not just a plaything in which to spend their millions.
The ownership group was renamed in 2019 to Two Oak Ventures, the ‘Two Oaks’ a major part of the branding and can be seen on the club badge, embodying connotations including united roots, intertwining oaks and the eleven leaves that are said to ‘be held aloft by the branches, to represent the eleven players on the pitch being lifted by our supporters’. Slightly cringe and sensationalist, but if it helps the wrestling loving Autinites buy into their newest sports outfit, then so be it.
The training facilities have been named the St. David’s Performance Center, called so after one of the club’s first corporate partners. The state of the art facility includes four full-sized pitches, including three grass pitches as well as one artificial turf surface with the capability to seat 1,000 fans, when supporters are back allowed in stadiums.
Clearly the infrastructure is being put in place to ensure everything is being done in the right manner at Austin FC. This is no half-hearted attempt to run a football club, the ownership group is determined to achieve and do things to the maximum, which is, of course, the American way. They’d be wise to do so, as the MLS is one of the fastest-growing sports leagues in the country. Whilst the popularity of football, or soccer, remains lower than more patriotic sports, there is definitely early signs that younger generations are turning to the round ball game for their entertainment. Making it a good time to be starting out.
The owners have appointed their first-ever head coach in Josh Wolff, an MLS stalwart who made over 300 league appearances in his career, including a spell in Germany with 1860 Munich. They have also appointed a familiar face for English Premier League fans as sporting director in Claudio Reyna, the USA international who enjoyed spells with Sunderland and Manchester City in the 2000s.
As their inaugural campaign approaches, announcements are sure to be made about Austin’s first-ever squad or ‘roster’, alike most other MLS sides it is expected to be filled with American nationals, South Americans, and perhaps a few British ex-pats. The franchise is bound to attempt to attract a marquee signing to bolster their profile and on-field performances from the off. In the past the MLS has seen the likes of David Villa, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and David Beckham himself play out their twilight years in the US, could Austin FC be home to another international legend in the 2021 season.
When Austin FC enter the MLS at the start of the 2021 season, they will become the city of Austin’s first professional sports team. Generating a massive amount of intrigue and taking Inter Miami’s place as new kids on the block in doing so. If Austin can make anything like the waves of the David Beckham owned franchise, who recently acquired Juventus star Blaise Matuidi, it will be fascinating to watch the development of the newest Texas club in town.