Austin FC Profile
USMNT greats Wolff and Reyna ready to lead MLS expansion outfit
Austin FC will be the 27th team in MLS when they make their debut in the 2021 season. They were announced as an expansion team in 2019 after a plan to move the Columbus Crew to Austin fell through at the last minute.
Although the Austin area has had professional soccer and other minor league sports teams, Austin FC will be their first top-division major professional sports outfit. Orlando City FC originally started in Austin as the Aztex but moved to Florida in 2008. The Aztex returned to the USL in 2011 but went on hiatus in 2015, and the team was dissolved in 2017. Austin Bold FC were formed in 2017 and have played in the USL Championship since 2019.
In 2017, the Columbus Crew owners, Precourt Sports Ventures, run by Anthony Precourt, announced plans to move the team to Austin. They even unveiled a name, badge and team colours in August 2018, but local owners emerged in Ohio and MLS gave Precourt operating rights in Austin if the sale went through. The Crew was saved in Columbus and expansion plans began for Austin FC to join the league in 2021.
In July 2019, Precourt changed the ownership group to Two Oak Ventures. He also brought in local and celebrity investing partners like actor Matthew McConaughey, Dell executive Marius Haas and Parsley Energy CEO Bryan Sheffield.
The signature colour for Austin FC is bright verde (green), with black as the secondary colour. The logo is a shield that features two intertwined oaks that stand as one to represent the bond between the club and the city. The oak trees feature 11 leaves held up by branches to represent the 11 players lifted by the supporters. The word Austin is above the trees in white, while the letters FC are between the branches and the roots. There are four roots, representing the four areas of Austin.
The home kit will be vertical green and black stripes with black shorts and socks. The 2021 kit is sponsored by Yeti and manufactured by Adidas. Netspend will be the sleeve sponsor for Austin FC's first season.
Wolff, Reyna hired to lead Austin FC
Austin FC named Josh Wolff as their first manager on July 23, 2019, and four months later, they announced Claudio Reyna as their sporting director.
Wolff played professional soccer from 1998 to 2012, spending time in MLS with the Chicago Fire, Kansas City Wizards and D.C. United. The striker also spent one season with 1860 Munich in Germany's 2. Bundesliga after being denied a work permit to play for Derby County in England. In 319 professional games, Wolff scored 94 goals, including an MLS rookie record of eight in 1998. He played 52 games for the US men's national team, scoring nine goals, and his major tournament appearances include the 2006 World Cup, 2000 Olympics and multiple Gold Cups. Since retiring in 2012, Wolff has been an assistant manager with D.C. United (2012-13), Columbus Crew (2014-18) and the USMNT (2019).
Reyna is one of the best players in United States history with 112 international caps. The midfielder played professionally from 1994-2008 with stops at Bayer Leverkusen, VfL Wolfsburg, Rangers, Sunderland, Manchester City and New York Red Bulls. He scored 23 times in 282 professional games and added eight international goals.
He was in the 1994 World Cup squad but didn't play because of injury. Reyna did play in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups though and was named in the 2002 edition's all-tournament team. He captained the US at the 2006 World Cup and retired after the tournament. From May 2013 to November 2019, Reyna was the sporting director of NYCFC, meaning Austin FC will be his second expansion team. Reyna's teenage son Gio is a budding star with Borussia Dortmund and the USMNT.
The first roster is constructed
Austin FC were allowed to start adding players during the 2020 MLS season, with their first signing being forward Rodney Redes, who joined from Club Guarani in Paraguay for $2.75million. A month later, they added another Paraguayan player when midfielder Cecilio Dominguez joined from Argentine side Independiente for $2.5million.
In December 2020, Austin FC added five players in deals for general allocation money. Defender Julio Cascante came from Portland Timbers for $250,000, defender Nick Lima joined from San Jose Earthquakes for $250,000 and defender Jon Gallagher came from Atlanta United in exchange for $225,000. Midfielder Ulises Segura joined from D.C. United for $150,000 and defender Ben Sweat was acquired from Inter Miami CF for $100,000.
The MLS Expansion Draft was on December 15 and Austin FC added five players. They took striker Danny Hoesen first from San Jose Earthquakes, followed by midfielder Jared Stroud from New York Red Bulls and goalkeeper Brady Scott from Nashville SC. Midfielder Joe Corona was drafted fourth, but he was released a week later and signed by Houston Dynamo. Defender Kamal Miller, Austin's fifth selection, was traded to Montreal Impact for $225,000 in general allocation money and a 2021 first-round draft pick.
Austin FC acquired midfielder Alexander Ring from NYCFC for $1.25million in allocation money on December 17. In the following two weeks, they added defender Hector Jimenez, goalkeepers Andrew Tarbell and Brad Stuver, defender Matt Besler and midfielder Diego Fagundez, all on free transfers. Defender Johan Romana was brought in from Club Guarani for an undisclosed fee and strike Kekuta Manneh signed on January 22.
On January 21, 2021, Austin FC had the first overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft. With this, they selected Venezuelan midfielder Daniel Pereira out of Virginia Tech. With the first-round pick acquired from Montreal Impact, they selected defender Freddy Kleemann from the University of Washington. Austin FC traded allocation money to Colorado Rapids for the 21st overall pick and selected defender Aedan Stanley out of Duke University. In the second round, Austin FC drafted striker Daniel Steedman out of the University of Virginia and in the third round, they took Ohio State goalkeeper Noah Lawrence.
The roster contains a lot of experience, especially for an expansion side. Besler played in the 2014 World Cup for the US and has 339 MLS appearances for Sporting Kansas City as a five-time MLS All-Star. He was SKC's captain from 2013-20.
Manneh has played for the Gambian national team since 2013 and won a Canadian Championship with the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2015. Fagundez has 286 MLS games under his belt with New England Revolution and represented Uruguay at the 2015 U-20 World Cup.
Tarbell was instrumental to the Columbus Crew in the MLS Cup in 2020 while filling in for injured starter Eloy Room in some big games, including two in the play-offs. Jimenez was also with the Crew in 2020, winning his third MLS Cup after two titles with LA Galaxy in 2011 and 2012.
Ring, a 2018 MLS All-Star, has played for Finland's national team since 2011 and also has Bundesliga experience with Borussia Monchengladbach. Scott, who is just 21, also has Bundesliga experience with three seasons at FC Koln. Hoesen played in Europe with FC Groningen from 2014 to 2017, including in five Champions League games, before joining San Jose Earthquakes.
Lima has played with the USMNT in Gold Cup and Nations League games, while Segura has experience in both competitions with Costa Rica. Sweat spent last season with expansion side Inter Miami after three years at NYCFC with Reyna. He has two caps with the USMNT and was initially drafted by Columbus.
Dominguez has played 17 times for Paraguay while also winning a Liga MX Apertura in 2018. He has scored 73 goals in 288 club appearances. Redes, the first Austin FC signing ever, is just 20 years old. The Paraguay native has 11 goals in 98 games for Guarani, with experience in the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana too.
Austin FC's stadium
Austin FC Stadium is being built as a soccer-specific arena in the North Burnet area of North Austin, Texas. The stadium is owned by the City of Austin and operated by Two Oak Ventures. The location is at McKalla Place and Austin FC have a 20-year lease from the city. The stadium capacity will be 20,500 and the project is expected to cost around $250million.
Austin FC's rivals
Austin FC have two natural rivals - FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo. Dallas is about 200 miles north of Austin, while Houston is roughly 150 miles south-east. The three cities form a triangle and the three metropolitan areas account for roughly 17 million people.
FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo have played for El Capitan in the Texas Derby since Houston joined MLS in 2006. FC Dallas have won El Capitan eight times, while Houston have won it seven times. Austin FC will join the competition in 2021, with the winner being determined by MLS regular-season games only. If the season series is tied, goal difference will be the first tie-breaker before going into games played in other competitions like the MLS Cup play-offs, US Open Cup or CONCACAF Champions League. The trophy is a replica of an 18th-century mountain howitzer cannon.