Austin FC, Matthew McConaughey dreams big
A visit to SXSW about 10 years ago and a meeting changed the way Major League Soccer evolved.
The visitor? MLS Commissioner Don Garber. Who did he meet? Austin Mayor Steve Adler. Standing in a brand new $ 225 million stadium on 24 acres of land, the two reflect on how their idea for the 27th franchise in MLS history grew.
Enter Austin FC, who will play his first game in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Imagine trying to get a professional sports team up and running like navigating a pandemic wasn’t enough of a hassle already? This is exactly what Austin FC’s front office was tasked with keeping the ship afloat while other expansion projects like Sacramento collapsed.
Owner Anthony Precourt initially attempted to relocate the Columbus crew to Austin in 2017, but after the Ohio crew was kept in Ohio by backlash and a new ownership contract, the Austin project began in earnest. Before anyone involved with Austin FC could even start thinking about football, they had to figure out how to instantly create a splash that resonates.
Oscar-winning actor and writer Matthew McConaughey was announced in 2019 as a partner and “Minister of Culture” for the new team.
The native Texan had no hesitation in being given the opportunity to be part of the project he consistently refers to as a “legacy move” for him and his family. Married to a Brazilian woman, football has become a part of his everyday life and his goal now is to collect the same passion in the city itself.
“Fresh, relentlessly optimistic city,” said McConaughey. “It’s the game of the world, it comes here. We have people from all over the world in our city who have never had a team representing the city of Austin.”
In addition to being located in one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, Austin FC has sold 15,500 season tickets and has a waiting list of 15,000 more.
“Fits the Major League Soccer brand: a city on the rise that blends perfectly with a league on the rise,” said Garber. “It seems so perfect. It looks like Austin, it feels like Austin, it reflects the culture of the community. “
This community is embedded in the homeland itself. The Q2 stadium is designed to emulate the outside areas in the bars and streets of the city center. It’s near The Domain, which is a relatively new retail and residential hub.
“When you take a snapshot of the sky [over Q2 Stadium] When you zoom in you should be able to see in the crowd the variety, creative colors and vibrancy that Austin represents, ”said McConaughey. “Every night you are in this stadium it should feel, smell and taste like the best of Austin, Texas.”
Austin FC won’t experience their home environment until June 19, when the stadium construction is complete. MLS planners haven’t spared the newcomers a favor by taking them up against the star-studded LAFC at the start of this weekend, not to mention five more playoff teams for 2020 over the next six game weeks.
Garber sees parallels between Austin FC and other recent expansion clubs.
“I tell all new owners, it’s very difficult to crack the code,” said Garber. “We saw the challenges Toronto faced when they formed their team before they could succeed. Orlando is another example of this. You have to expect that you just can’t come here, snap your fingers and expect to become the MLS Cup champion. It’s a difficult league to be successful in. “
LAFC has been one of the best models to be successful in recent times, and McConaughey, who has competed in LA games, has learned from this group of owners.
It also helps that his friend Will Ferrell is one of the co-owners of LAFC. In fact, McConaughey said the pair engaged in a “war of words” over the opener and could bet on it.
All of that anticipation is now a few days away from the payout.
“How much success can we have in the first year? We’ll see, “said McConaughey.” We didn’t build [Austin FC] in one day and we won’t be a fad. This is the beginning. The seed is planted to grow a big strong oak tree, a legend, and we have the long term view of what we are going to build and become here. “
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