After nearly a year of uncertainty, it looks as if the Columbus Crew SC is staying put.
Crew SC will reportedly be purchased by a new ownership group that intends to keep the franchise in Columbus, Ohio, instead of relocating to Austin, Texas — as current owner Anthony Precourt had intended.
“Major League Soccer and the Columbus Partnership have been working together for several months on a plan to keep Crew SC in Columbus and we have made significant progress,” the league said in a statement on Friday.
It also revealed that the Haslam family — who owns the Cleveland Browns — has joined the Columbus Partnership ownership group to potentially purchase the Crew.
“We are optimistic about our recent conversations with MLS regarding the potential sale of the operating rights of the Columbus Crew,” the group said in a statement. “While there are many details to be worked out, our alliance is working diligently and collaboratively with the League to keep the Crew in its community.”
The Haslams released a statement through the Browns on Friday afternoon that said they are “hopeful to be part of the solution,” but that nothing has been decided.
“We value and appreciate the benefits a professional sports franchise can bring to a community and are hopeful to be part of the solution to keep the Crew in Columbus,” the Haslams said in a statement Friday afternoon. “We would invest in a strong infrastructure within the Crew organization so that we can continue our focus and commitment to building a winning Cleveland Browns football team in Northeast Ohio. We look forward to seeing how this process evolves.”
Though nothing has been set in stone, and the team has not yet been purchased by a new ownership group, it seems as if they will be staying in Ohio after all.
What about Austin FC?
While the Crew SC will not be moving to the Texas capital, MLS has not bailed on its plan to expand in the city behind Percourt.
“Major League Soccer is excited to move forward in Austin with Precourt Sports Ventures and their vision for Austin FC,” the league said in a statement. “Regardless of any scenario in Columbus, there is a clear path forward for PSV to operate Austin FC as a Major League Soccer club.
“The strong support from Austin’s corporate community, government officials and passionate soccer fans is impressive. Austin is a flourishing, dynamic city that presents a great opportunity for MLS, and we look forward to finalizing plans to become the first major league team in the capital of Texas.”
The league said it hopes to have the team playing in Austin no later than the 2021 season in a new stadium at McKalla Place.
With Austin now likely to be an expansion team, the league has one spot left to reach its goal of 28 teams with Cincinnati opening its club in 2019 and both Nashville and Miami in 2020. Sacramento, San Diego, Detroit, Phoenix and St. Louis are among potential landing spots for the final team.
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