In light of Columbus Crew SC‘s potential move to Austin, a Bexar County judge is concerned that MLS misled San Antonio over its prospects of obtaining an expansion franchise.
Bexare County Judge Nelson Wolff is expressing concerns about how Crew SC’s potential move to Austin would affect San Antonio’s ongoing pursuit of an MLS expansion franchise. According to Wolff, he and Bexar County officials were encouraged in 2015 by MLS to move forward with a purchase of Toyota Field–now home to USL’s San Antonio FC–in hopes of eventually expanding it for an MLS expansion franchise. The city and county would later acquire Toyota Field from former San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) owner Gordon Hartman for $18 million.
Wolff claims to have been told that if Austin and San Antonio both filed for expansion, MLS was not likely to select both cities. San Antonio filed for an expansion franchise earlier this year, while Austin did not. However, it was recently revealed that Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt is considering a move of his franchise to Austin, and that a clause in his 2013 purchase agreement allows him to relocate the club to the city.
Wolff said that news of Precourt’s interest in Austin and the clause in that agreement came as a surprise to him, prompting him to ask the county attorney to investigate whether MLS violated any laws in the process. More from The Columbus Dispatch:
“He encouraged us to go ahead and do that,” Wolff said of [MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark] Abbott. “He made it clear that if Austin filed, it was either going to be Austin or us. Of course, Austin never filed.”
Wolff said he was surprised to learn of the league’s contact with Austin earlier in 2017 and of a clause in Crew investor-operator Anthony Precourt’s purchase agreement of the team in 2013 that allowed for a future move to Austin. Precourt might move the team after the 2018 season.
In Bexar County, the county judge presides over the five-member Commissioners Court — one county judge, four commissioners — that acts as the county’s governing body.
“First, I’d like to get all this and air it out so that everybody will know what happened here,” Wolff said. “That’s my clear objective, and I think that’s going to happen.”
On Friday, Wolff sent a letter MLS commissioner Don Garber to notify him of his request to the county attorney. In a statement, MLS confirmed that it had received the letter and denied that it had misled Wolff or any other area officials over the prospects of San Antonio obtaining an expansion franchise. More from MySanAntonio.com:
On Monday, Dan Courtemanche, executive vice president of communications for MLS, disputed that.
“Major League Soccer has received the letter from Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff,” Courtemanche said in a statement. “We are in the process of reviewing the letter and preparing a formal response. Although that review is not yet complete, we strongly disagree with Judge Wolff’s assertion that we misled either him or any public official about the prospects for San Antonio acquiring an MLS expansion team.”
Though discussion over a potential move continues to unfold, Precourt has said that no final decisions have been made regarding whether Crew SC will relocate. The club is slated to spend the 2018 season in Columbus at its current facility, MAPFRE Stadium.