Announcing “The Austin Aztex Project” Documenting the Building of American Soccer
Planting the Seed of Soccer Across America: Danny Beerseed
Last September the Austin Aztex, under new ownership, announced their return to the American soccer fold. Almost a year earlier the first incarnation of the Aztex had packed up for greener pastures in Orlando, leaving supporters in the lurch and a bad taste in the mouth of the local soccer community.
Austin is a city with seemingly perfect demographics for success: a booming population full of young professionals with disposable incomes, a great place for raising a family, and a strong Latino community. But for all of these factors leaning in their favor former Aztex 1.0 owner, Phil Rawlins cited a lack of local investors (in a tough, recession economy), geographic isolation from the league's other teams, and an awkward stadium situation that gave them team downtown real estate, but a place (since it was high school American football field) where no alcohol could be served or corporate suites be added..
The relocated club ditched the Aztex name and re-branded as Orlando City Soccer Club and went on to immediate success, winning the United Soccer League's PRO division title in 2011 and stoking speculation that the Central Florida team was on Major League Soccer's shortlist for expansion.
Back in Austin, the soccer community found little comfort in Orlando's on-field and off-field success. Behind the scenes, though, a former minority owner, David Markley, was working to bring some team, any team back home.
USL's David Winner, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell,
and Aztex owner David Markley.
Photo Credit: Austin Aztex
On a sunny late September day Markley would stand side-by-side Austin's mayor Lee Leffingwell and USL President David Winner and make the much anticipated news that soccer was indeed returning to Texas' capital city. A return to the USL, however, would be at a different level of the American soccer pyramid than the recently departed Orlando side.
Austin's American soccer journey would begin like its predecessor, in the USL's Premier Developmental League, a confederation of regional and sub-regional leagues populated by mostly local, college-aged kids trying to keep their skills sharp in the summertime. Thus, the first disappointment of this new team had emerged; any potential clash against Orlando would have to wait until Austin built strong enough local support to garner a "promotion" (not promotion in the global sense, of course) out of the PDL.
The excitement of the return of live, local soccer was, though, the overwhelming feeling of the moment, overshadowing the fading, bitter memories of last fall.
But now the main task stood front and center.
How would this Austin Aztex organization, version 2.0, be able find success where the other had not?
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