What: Austin FC was named the 27th franchise to join Major League Soccer (MLS).
Why it matters: Considering Austin, Texas’s Hispanic demographic makes up 35 percent of the city’s population, Austin FC needs to win over local Hispanic audiences and business to help build a fanbase for the expansion soccer club.
After traveling a long, winding road to get its first professional sports team, Major League Soccer (@MLS) announced earlier this month that Austin FC (@AustinFC) would become the 27th franchise to join the league.
Austin FC joins Nashville (yet to be named), FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati), and Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF), as part of the American professional soccer league’s push to expand to 28 teams. Austin FC is set to kick off in 2021, after FC Cincinnati (2019), Inter Miami (2020) and Nashville (2020) make their debuts.
“Austin is a thriving metropolitan city, the embodiment of what we mean when we say MLS is a ‘League for a new America,’” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber (@thesoccerdon). “We are extremely proud to be the first major professional sports league to become part of the fabric of this important and thriving American city.”
Austin won the expansion bid as part of a compromise between the league and the Precourt Sports Ventures (PSV) group, who attempted to move the Columbus Crew (@ColumbusCrewSC) to Texas after failing to secure a new stadium. After a huge uproar from Crew fans, including a “#SavetheCrew” social media hashtag campaign, Cleveland Browns (@Browns) owner, Jimmy Haslam, and former Crew physician Pete Edwards stepped up to buy the franchise from PSV, keeping the team in Columbus. In return, PSV would not be obligated to pay an expansion fee for a new franchise in Austin, since PSV had not given up its MLS owners rights (a single-entity league), but rather transferred them from Columbus to Austin.
… It will be smart business to target those names [and] leaders that will resonate with the multiple audiences, including the Hispanic audience
“We had a vision and we stuck with it and with hard work and perseverance, today demonstrated that for all,” said Austin FC owner Anthony Precourt. “There have been a lot of iterations for soccer in this city. This city deserves this.”
Considering MLS’s current mantra of the league is a “League for a new America,” one of the major draws to Austin is its growing Hispanic population. With Hispanics making up 35.1 percent of the city’s population, winning over that demographic is one of the components necessary for Austin FC to grow and thrive.
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“Support from the Hispanic community is very important for the soccer project, in a city with that [demographic],” said ESPN correspondent Tony Alvarez (@Tonyar27). “Their knowledge and passion for the sport will help solidify the franchise.”
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The franchise has started to make headway attempting to win over Hispanic fans building relationships in the community and local business leaders, according to Sergio Tristan, founder of “Pancho Villa’s Army,” a nationwide Mexican national team supporters’ group (@VillasArmy).
“I know that there are ongoing discussions with Hispanic [and] Mexican leaders in town, like the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the people associated with the local Mexican leagues in town,” said Tristan. “I think the newness will draw people in, but it’s up to Austin FC to make sure they come back.”
One of the local organizations that PSV reached out to was the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, according to the organization’s president and CEO, Luis Rodriguez. After meeting with team officials, Rodriguez was pleased with Austin FC’s plans to partner up with local small businesses, contractors and minority inclusion when picking vendors for a potential stadium; as well the club’s charity components consisting of investing more than $6.7 million earmarked to support youth soccer programs — including clinics, camps, scholarships, equipment and gear donations, and construction of soccer fields and futsal courts. Austin FC is also making a commitment to affordable housing, with nearly $4 million in direct contributions going towards building affordable housing.
“Bringing Major League Soccer is a logical and critically important step in Austin’s evolution to being an inclusive, world-class city that embraces Hispanic heritage, health and wellness, the outdoors, diversity, family values, the burgeoning impact of the millennial generation and economic prosperity,” the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in a statement.
rEvolution (@littleRbigE) marketing communications VP Daniel Lobring believes that Austin FC will also need to leverage town pride, connecting with each audience as authentically as possible, in order to help build up the fanbase.
“Austin FC will want to lean-in heavy on its Austin roots, and that includes tapping into the pride of where you’re from,” said Lobring (@dlobring). “And as the club assembles its front office, coaching staff, roster, etc., it will be smart business to target those names [and] leaders that will resonate with the multiple audiences, including the Hispanic audience, it’s trying to attract with.”