Just down the road, Major League Soccer’s first ever franchise could be on the move.
Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt announced that the club is looking at strategic options to ensure the viability of the club, including a new stadium in Columbus or a potential move to the city of Austin, Texas. The Crew would be only the second team to relocate in the history of Major League Soccer.
Precourt’s ownership group, released a statement claiming that a “growing disparity in attendance and corporate support compared to its MLS peers and other midsize markets, such as Kansas City, Orlando, Portland and Salt Lake City” has forced the group to look at other options.
The club hired a firm to look at the possibility of building a new stadium in the city, but if that does not work out the team will likely relocate to Austin, Texas, the largest metropolitan area in North America without a major league sports franchise.
“As attendance league-wide continues to grow on a record-setting pace, and markets across the country seek to join MLS, Columbus’ situation is particularly concerning,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in New York City. “Despite PSV’s significant investments and improvements on and off the field, Columbus Crew SC is near the bottom of the League in all business metrics and the club’s stadium is no longer competitive with other venues across MLS. The league is very reluctant to allow teams to relocate, but based on these factors, we support PSV’s efforts to explore options outside of Columbus, including Austin, provided they find a suitable stadium location.”
The Columbus Crew is among the most storied clubs in MLS, even claiming to be the “the first and oldest club in the league.” The club has the first soccer specific stadium and has been the host to some of the biggest moments for the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT), some even consider Columbus to be the unofficial home of the USMNT.
Soccer fans in Columbus and around the United States have essentially been in revolt, with #SavetheCrew rallies, very visible signs at the Crew’s knockout round playoff games in Atlanta and New York, and even by making it on ESPN College Gameday ahead of an Ohio State game.
Even with all the fan support, the Columbus Crew had the third lowest attendance numbers this season. The team would not relocate until the 2019 season so next year’s ticket sales could prove to be a crucial factor as to whether or not the team packs up its bags. However, the fans do not have to wait until next season to show their support at MAPFRE stadium, as the Crew are still in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
The Crew defeated Atlanta United in their brand new stadium in the first round before taking down NYCFC in the second round.
The Crew are now in the semi-finals of the playoffs and have their sights set on winning the cup. One thing is for sure, it would be pretty hard to find a reason to move a team after it wins the league.