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Columbus Crew SC to Austin, TX: What does that mean?

Columbus Crew SC

With news coming early in the week that Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt was considering moving the franchise to Austin, Tx in 2019, I’ll be taking a look at the whole story and discussing its repercussions across MLS as a whole. Columbus are a team that have been with the MLS since its founding in 1996. They were the first MLS team to begin play in a football-specific stadium, and they have a storied history that shouldn’t be forgotten. With all of that said, attendance has been an issue of late and MLS Commissioner Don Garber has made a statement that the Columbus business-side figures have been some of the lowest in the league. This being said about a charter-team of the MLS definitely seems worrying enough to warrant looking at relocation options in my opinions.

With the information coming in following the acknowledgement by Precourt, it is understood that this move has been in the making for a good bit of time now. There have been apparent discussions with Austin businessmen and the mayor for a new stadium that would be wanted in the downtown area, as well as with the University of Texas for the use of their stadium temporarily. All of this comes as a shock to most Columbus supporters, as it had seemed that Precourt was still lobbying for a new downtown stadium in Columbus. It is generally accepted though that there is likely no chance of that actually happening, thus almost guaranteeing a relocation to Austin.

But what if Columbus do move to Austin? This would directly affect a couple of competitions, first and foremost being the Eastern Conference of the MLS due to the geographical relocation from Columbus, Oh to Austin, Tx. This would certainly require yet another restructuring of the divisions, but with LAFC entering the MLS in 2018 the divisions will be lopsided as it is, and a Western Conference team will need to be moved to the Eastern conference in an effort to rebalance the conferences.

The current conferences as they are:

Eastern Conference
1. Atlanta United FC
2. Chicago Fire
3. Columbus Crew SC
4. DC United
5. Montreal Impact
6. New England Revolution
7. New York City FC
8. New York Red Bulls
9. Orlando City SC
10. Philadelphia Union
11. Toronto FC

Western Conference
1. Colorado Rapids
2. FC Dallas
3. Houston Dynamo
4. LA Galaxy
5. Minnesota United
6. Portland Timbers
7. Real Salt Lake
8. San Jose Earthquakes
9. Seattle Sounders FC
10. Sporting Kansas City
11. Vancouver Whitecaps

The 2018 season would see LAFC enter play in the Western Conference, bringing the total number of MLS teams to 23 and unbalancing the conferences. Should Columbus actually move to Austin in 2019, then they would most likely join the Western Conference. In the event that happened, there would likely be a team from the Western Conference that would move to the Eastern Conference. Sporting Kansas City or the newcomers Minnesota United FC seem the most-likely candidates for such a transition.

Not only that, but the Texas Derby, an intramural competition during the regular season of the MLS between FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo, will likely be altered to include the new Austin team. This will introduce and hopefully fan new rivalries between the local teams of Texas. The Trillium Cup, another intramural competition between Toronto FC and Columbus would likely be dissolved as its namesake is the official flower of both Ontario and Ohio. Given the geographical departure and likely conference switch should the relocation be made, any rivalry would be gone as the Austin team would be considered to have started fresh.

Regardless of what happens, the MLS is growing and perhaps old markets that might have helped build the MLS, in the beginning, will need to make way for new markets. Texas is certainly a market ripe for football support, and with a third team seemingly imminent, supporters will need to decide how their loyalties will be affected.