AUSTIN (KXAN) — While the members of the Austin City Council continue debating whether or not they want a Major League Soccer team to take over a city-owned lot on the north side of town, another soccer team is getting ready to play at the Circuit of the Americas.
On Friday, the United Soccer League revealed that Austin’s newest soccer team will be called Austin Bold FC.
“You gotta be bold, you gotta be good, man, you gotta be good in life, as a player, as a person,” new head coach Marcelo Serrano said.
The team didn’t announce Usain Bolt as a player at its big announcement but they’re still trying to woo him. Last week, the general manager of Austin’s USL team told KXAN they were in negotiations with Bolt to bring him here.
“A name like Bolt lets us build the momentum,” USL Austin franchise general manager Roberto Silva said Thursday ahead of the team announcement. “We are still confident we will have him, if not now, but in the near future.”
Bolt’s star power will help attract more talent, Silva said, and having a professional team in Austin will help retain the talent that’s already here. Young players are going to Dallas, Seattle or Portland to continue playing after high school, he said, and that’s hurting the talent pool here.
The team is keeping some roster positions open for hometown players.
“Now we can hold them in Austin and allow them to do that transition to professional life and professional soccer and let them stay at home with their families,” SIlva said, “and allowing us Austinites to enjoy their skills.”
It was clear Friday that COTA wants to keep the focus on USL and the work that’s gone into bringing a team there.
But with questions swirling about MLS and its desire to become a part of Austin’s landscape, it’s impossible to ignore that big conversation happening at the same time. Some question whether the city has enough support for both to succeed.
Responding, Circuit of the Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein said, “We’re going to put a great product on the field. I think we’re going to put a wonderful atmosphere, create a great atmosphere for the fans. We’re going to focus on that. And I think that’s gonna fill our seats.”
That’s 5,000 seats. To put it in perspective, that’s just under the number at Austin ISD’s House Park Stadium, which seats between 6,000-6,500 people. Both would be dwarfed by plans for a MLS stadium at McKalla place, that calls for 20,000 seats.
“I think we’ve always looked at the opportunity to build soccer locally and in the community is to start with if it’s a 3,000 or a 5,000-seat stadium, and you fill that up then the next level you go is you go to a 10,000 seat stadium and you fill that up. I don’t know if you can work backwards,” Epstein said.
KXAN asked if the addition of MLS would help or hurt what COTA is working to accomplish with USL.
Epstein responded, “I think it’s great for the kids, the more professional soccer the better. I think we’re going to focus on this team and the reality of what is here and what’s in front of us and we’ve got a group of local owners who’ve made a long-term commitment to Austin and to soccer, pro soccer and it’s really here and it’s really happening.”
This won’t be the first USL team to play in the capital city. The Austin Aztex started in the Premier Development League, a lower-tier league, and moved into the USL in 2015. Memorial Day floods that year damaged House Park in central Austin where the team was playing, forcing them to relocate mid-season.
The Aztex sat out the 2016 season while they searched for a permanent home, but the team never returned. Silva said having a soccer-specific stadium, not one used primarily for football — where they can serve alcohol — will help attract fans.
Austin’s USL team will kick off its season in 2019. Home matches for the team will be played in a 5,000-seat stadium at COTA.
The USL includes more than 35 professional soccer teams in the United States and Canada.
To purchase 2019 season tickets, visit Austin Bold FC’s website. Prices start at $189.