FILE – In this January 25, 2021 file photo, dignitaries gather for a ribbon cut at Austin FC’s new stadium under construction called Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas. Austin FC is the newest expansion team for MLS and had to build the $ 260 million facility and team line-up amid the global pandemic. Austin FC opens the 2021 season on Saturday, April 17, 2021 at Los Angeles FC. (AP Photo / Eric Gay, FILE) Eric Gay

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FILE – In this file photo dated Jan. 25, 2021, Matt Flake, CEO of Q2 Holdings Inc. (left), and Anthony Precourt (right), majority owner of Austin FC, right, attend a ceremony at the new stadium The team is named Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas. Austin FC is the newest expansion team for MLS and had to build the $ 260 million facility and team line-up amid the global pandemic. Austin FC opens the 2021 season on Saturday, April 17, 2021 at Los Angeles FC. (AP Photo / Eric Gay, FILE) Eric Gay

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AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas capital finally has a major league sports franchise.

All it took was a battle with another city for an attempted Major League Soccer team change before one Expansion franchise was granted, a bruise among Austin City Council members was spat over land for a new stadium, and unknowns of an economically damaging pandemic were navigated to build the facility and a roster of players.

Give yourself a helping Celebrity zen and sizzle with Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey who is part of the investing group behind Austin FC. The club is ready to join the MLS as the 27th and newest franchise in the league. The team’s first game is Saturday night at Los Angeles FC.

“It was a long process to get here and we just want to get it right,” said main owner Anthony Precourt, who first tried to get his previous team, the Columbus Crew, and then got an expansion club in early 2019.

Looking back, the first year after that announcement was the culmination of a soccer startup. The stadium had laid the foundation stone, the sponsorships for the business were pending and Precourt brought in former US soccer greats Claudio Reyna as sports director and Josh Wolff as head coach.

Reyna was sports director at NYCFC and Wolff was assistant coach in Columbus and for the US national team.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. As the construction teams progressed, Reyna had to put together a roster with a scouting department that couldn’t participate in games or meet in person with players and agents.

The team that hits the field on Saturday will have a roster Made up of a mix of players from across the MLS anchored by two designated players from South America: Tomas Pochettino of Argentina, midfielder for Cordoba-based club Talleres, and Decilio Dominguez, a striker for the Paraguayan national team who plays at the Argentine Independiente.

The hard part was doing it all in the year of video interviews and chats with players who had almost no personal connection.

“You can watch almost every game around the world “said Reyna. “What you can’t see is a player warming up, what they’re doing when they’re not in the picture. … It’s the informal part, when you get to know the players better. You get to know the fathers, sometimes the fathers Girlfriends the women. This also gives you a good understanding of what this player is about.

“You can get a good idea of ​​what a player is about on Zoom, but it gets a little bit of one Interview, “said Reyna.” As in all industries, we miss that interaction with the players. “

The club would always build its first squad mostly with players from the MLS, said Reyna. Austin still has a place for a particular one Player who could be occupied by the summer.

Austin won’t be able to play at his new $ 260 million seat until June. But that long slog at the beginning of the season means a lot of home games at the back end, which prove to be helpful k could if the club is looking for a place in the postseason.

MLS had a long eye on Austin, a market dominated by the University of Texas and Longhorn’s athletics. The league had Austin FC registered for a franchise name long before the city entered expansion talks. Precourt’s first sales contract for the crew included a promise to keep the team in Ohio for at least 10 years, but there was also a clause moving him to Austin.

Austin was between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio and didn’t have one large professional sports franchise. But the Texan capital has been in a boom cycle for decades, as tech companies started here or relocated offices and workers.

And as the region’s population grows to 2.5 million, the dominant Longhorn footprint is slowly starting to shrink . That means more fans can look for new ones and more teams can follow.

MLS stepped in to feed the team, and Commissioner Don Garber said Austin’s possessions “passed on” in building the franchise and brand . He noted that the club’s 15,000 season tickets had already been sold and another 15,000 were on a waiting list.

“This is a city on the rise that blends perfectly with a league on the rise,” Garber said, warning at the same time, there is no guarantee that it will immediately get positive results in the field.

“I tell all new owners that it is very difficult to crack the code,” said Garber. “You have to expect that you can’t just come here and snap your fingers and expect to be the MLS Cup Champion.”

As part of the ownership group, McConaughey holds the title of Minister of Culture and has been busy serving the team as Foster a big new move for a city long defined by politics and the Longhorns.

“It’s so ripe,” said McConaughey. “Football is the ideal sport for our city. As Austin FC fans, we can now talk to this banker in London, this taxi driver in Timbuktu. We have a home team to talk about. “

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