Columbus's potential move to Austin could have ripple effects in the MLS expansion landscape.

By Grant Wahl
October 17, 2017

What is one of the biggest impacts of the Columbus Crew potentially moving to Austin? Well, consider MLS expansion.

A source with knowledge of the situation says that if Columbus moves, and thus opens up some real estate in the Midwest, it will dramatically increase the chances that Cincinnati and even Detroit get expansion teams and essentially kill the chances of San Antonio. The source said owner Anthony Precourt would only move Columbus to Austin and is not considering a move to Detroit, Cincinnati or anywhere else.

Precourt acknowledged the possibility of relocation on Tuesday, and MLS commissioner Don Garber weighed in as well, stressing how business needs have facilitated the potential development.

“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,” Garber said in a statement. “Despite PSV’s (Precourt Sports Ventures) 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.”

MLS has said it will name two more expansion teams in December, with the league continuing on its path to 28 teams.

Elsewhere in U.S. soccer:

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U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati is set to dig his heels in and run for re-election in February despite the U.S. men’s failure to qualify for the World Cup. But should Gulati run again?

Few respected soccer people in the U.S. are willing to speak on the record, but former U.S. Soccer presidents Alan Rothenberg and Bob Contiguglia and former Real Salt Lake owner and NBA GM Dave Checketts did speak for public consumption.

Rothenberg said: “Where matters stand now, I don’t see any better candidate even remotely extant. Therefore, [Gulati] should run. If somebody from the outside with tremendous credentials should appear, I might have to take a second look at it. And by the way, I think Sunil would, too. If he could keep his role on the 2026 World Cup and CONCACAF and FIFA, I think he’d be very happy. And running the World Cup would take a heck of a lot of time. But at the same time, it would have to be somebody who was clearly able to take the reins [of U.S. Soccer].”

Contiguglia said he thought Gulati had done a good job overall running the U.S. Soccer board and that he should continue.

Checketts, meanwhile, said: “I do feel that there will be someone who will emerge who has the ability to move the needle here. I think that Sunil should remain involved. I hope he does remain involved. But I would challenge him now to consider stepping aside so that someone else could give it a try. I think [U.S. Soccer] needs a different direction.”

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