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Sacramento MLS Odds Get Longer As League Hints At Team In Austin

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento's bid for a Major League Soccer team has taken a blow after the league decided to not only keep one team where it is, but it appears to have given the go-ahead its potential destination.

Austin had long been rumored as the new home for the Columbus Crew as the team's ownership group had its eyes on moving the team. The future of MLS in both cities seemed to revolve around one team.

But on Friday, the league announced the owners of the NFL's Cleveland Browns are stepping in to help prevent the crew from leaving Columbus. The group would buy the team and keep it in Columbus.

Major League Soccer and the Columbus Partnership have been working together for several months on a plan to keep Crew SC in Columbus and we have made significant progress.

Recently, the Haslam Family – along with the Columbus-based Edwards Family, have joined the effort to keep Crew SC in Columbus.

MLS, the Columbus Partnership and the investor group all agree that for the club to be successful in Columbus, it requires strong local partners, long-term corporate support, a strong season ticket base and long-term plans for a stadium, practice facilities and associated sites.

MLS is committed to keeping Crew SC in Columbus should we continue to make progress on these critical components and agree to key terms with the investor group.

MLS recognizes the cooperation Precourt Sports Ventures has demonstrated throughout the process to date.

MLS also remains very committed to PSV's plan to launch an MLS club in Austin and is excited for Austin to become a great addition to MLS. We will continue to work with PSV and the City of Austin on the timing around the launch of Austin FC.

Precourt Sports Ventures has been working to get a team in Austin and had been looking to attract the Crew to town. While the decision to keep the Crew in Columbus would seem to cripple Austin's chances at an MLS team, the league released another statement saying there was a "clear path forward" for Austin to start playing no later than 2021.

Major League Soccer is excited to move forward in Austin with Precourt Sports Ventures and their vision for Austin FC. Regardless of any scenario in Columbus, there is a clear path forward for PSV to operate Austin FC as a Major League Soccer club.

The strong support from Austin's corporate community, government officials and passionate soccer fans is impressive.  Austin is a flourishing, dynamic city that presents a great opportunity for MLS, and we look forward to finalizing plans to become the first major league team in the capital of Texas.

While timing for Austin FC is still to be finalized, we are confident that the team will begin play no later than 2021 at the new, privately financed stadium and soccer park at McKalla Place. We applaud the Austin community, city leaders and Precourt Sports Ventures for their commitment to making this happen.

Having both Columbus remain and Austin join the league would seem to be a blow for Sacramento's hopes for an MLS team. The league added FC Cincinnati as its 26th team with a May announcement. The league's plans only call for expanding to 28 teams currently, and if Austin joined, it would become the the 27th team.

That would leave Sacramento with Detroit, Phoenix, San Diego and St. Louis as potential homes for that 28th team.

When it made its decision on Cincinnati, the league said the issue was whether or not the ownership group had deep-pocket investors.

The Sacramento Republic released a statement on Friday saying it's still in that process of securing those investors.

We are currently in the last phase in the year-long process of securing a top flight ownership group to deliver the MLS club our fans and community deserve. Today's announcement does not impact our final stage negotiations in any way whatsoever. Republic FC, together with our prospective ownership partners, are in constant communication with the league about next steps. Alongside them, Mayor Darrell Steinberg, the City Council, and the entire community, we remain as committed and confident as ever in achieving our goal of bringing MLS to Sacramento.

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