Soccer fans debate whether Austin can support 2 professional teams

Sports

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The announcement Friday that the United Soccer League plans to create the Austin Bold FC made fans wonder if the city can support it along with a potential Major League Soccer team. 

Matthew Gray helped start Eberly’s Army, a local group for avid soccer fans. They strongly got behind and rooted for the Austin Aztex, the city’s previous USL team, until it stopped playing in 2015.

The prospect of the MLS bringing in a team raises his hopes further, but Gray said the lack of support in the past makes him skeptical that any team can get a strong foothold. 

“Cautiously optimistic is a great term because, for me, I’m very enthusiastic about having live soccer come back to Austin from a professional perspective,” Gray said.

“For us,” he added, “we love the fact that we’ll have a team, but we also have to be very cautious who we’re going to give blood, sweat and tears to.”

Erick Bello, a soccer trainer at Soccer Hub in north Austin, played a season for the Aztex about eight years ago.

He said he thinks the environment is different now for another team to succeed. “We just didn’t have the interest back then, and it was unfortunate because they were a very good team,” Bello said. “The interest has finally peaked, and we have a great opportunity.”

One of Bello’s students, 11-year-old Madailein Quinn, has never been to a professional match, so she’s happy to hear that the Bold, or an MLS team, could come to town. “I think it’s cool and exciting,” Quinn said. “Maybe I’ll get to go to some of their games.”

These fans plan to get behind whichever teams ultimately come to Austin, and they’re hoping that this time will be different.

“I think there’s a real desire with not just the natives — but the immigrants, as I say, to the Austin area — to see a variety of live sports, so I think it can support it,” Gray said. “But it’s very critical for the club to be able to reach out to the community, to be able to market to the community and also to be able to do some of the charitable outreach that is so important to not just give back but to also raise brand awareness within the Central Texas region.”

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