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How the Austin Clause Wound Up in Anthony Precourt's Columbus Crew Purchase

MLS commissioner Don Garber addresses the potential relocation of the Columbus Crew and much more in the new Planet Fútbol Podcast.

On the new Planet Fútbol podcast, MLS commissioner Don Garber spoke on a number of topics, from the U.S. Soccer presidential election to the role of Soccer United Marketing to MLS expansion to the league’s newest team, LAFC. Garber, who has been the commissioner since 1999, also revealed that he’s in the process of negotiating a contract extension to the one that ends later this year.

Here are some of the news-making things Garber said in the podcast (You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here!):


“Well, it starts with the Hunt family was very focused to get a local owner for the club. As you’ve heard me say, they hired a local investment bank. They worked for 18, 24 months to try to find a local investor from the city of Columbus, and nobody, not one person, stepped up to make a legitimate offer for the team.

“So at that time we then went outside the community and looked at somebody from afar and found Anthony Precourt, who lives in San Francisco. Anthony said, ‘Hey, I really want to be involved in Major League Soccer. I’m not quite sure that the Columbus Crew is a team that I think has long-term viability, but I’m all-in. And I will agree to operate this team. I’ll put all my resources against it. I’ll hire a great coach.’ Which he did in Gregg Berhalter. ‘I’ll put together a good team.’ It is one of our most successful teams since he’s owned it. ‘I’ll invest in the stadium.’ All things he did with the sole purpose of being successful. And after all that he has not been able to be as successful as he needs to be.

“When he made that acquisition, all teams have the opportunity in all leagues to come to the league and say, ‘I can’t succeed. I need some help. Are there options for me in another market?’ In his case, when he said that, upon purchase, we said, ‘We’ll agree that all teams have that with league approval, but we’re going to limit you to only one market.’ And that one market was Austin. And that was because we had no expansion activity going on at that time. A lot has happened since then. That was five years ago. Things change. Times change. I don’t know how this ultimately gets resolved. But I will tell you that we are as focused on keeping the team there [in Columbus] as Anthony is working to try to see if there are any other alternatives.”

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“This took a long time. But I think everyone will see in the weeks to come that we will be announcing a new team in a market that we felt was very, very important—a strategic gateway to South America, a very culturally significant part of our country and a market we wanted to have an MLS team in. I’m just a believer after so many years of the trials and tribulations of building MLS over the last two decades that great things come to those that wait. Sometimes if you get out too fast in front of what’s right you can make mistakes and get it wrong.

“We worked hard to get this one right. As you’ve heard, we’ve got a new ownership group that’s come together with David: Jorge Mas, a really connected and successful and soccer-oriented local owner; Marcelo Claure, CEO of Sprint and a guy that owns a team in Bolivia, just announced building a new stadium; and now you have Masa Son, who’s the founder of one of the most important technology companies of the world investing in this team. So I think when it all comes together, people will be very, very excited. And that time’s coming really soon.”