In most cities, the arrival of a Major League Soccer team wouldn’t exactly be front page news. But Austin’s not like other cities when it comes to pro sports. The nation’s eleventh most populated city is the largest one without a major professional sports team, and the state capital has never had an NFL, MLB, NBA, or even NHL team flirt with the idea of moving to town. So when MLS—the U.S.’s third most-watched soccer league, behind Mexico’s La Liga and the British Premier League—announced their intention of placing a team in Austin, the city went bonkers.
The saga of how it got there was convoluted. But it reached a milestone on Friday, when the ownership group was announced—and it included one high-profile name in Matthew McConaughey.
The team, which will play under the nondescript moniker Austin F.C. (for “football club”), is co-owned by McConaughey and a trio of wealthy local businessmen—Dell EMC president and COO Marius Haas, billionaire oil industry scion Bryan Sheffield, and local investor Eddie Margain. “This is about legacy for me,” McConaughey said at a press conference. “I’m at a time in my life where I don’t want to spend time and money on things that I don’t look forward to doing on Monday morning.”
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McConaughey’s got a lot of things he can enjoy doing on Monday mornings in Austin. In addition to his role with Austin F.C., he also semi-formalized his partnership with the University of Texas’s athletics program by signing on as its “Minister of Culture” earlier this year, whatever that means—and the MLS team is one that is likely to come with fewer headaches than it might have a week ago, too.
The team’s stadium deal has long been controversial. While it’s one of the better arrangements for a public/private partnership we’ve seen a city strike (compare it with the stunning giveaway that Arlington offered the Texas Rangers), the local political action committee Fair Play Austin—founded by Bobby Epstein, owner of the United Soccer League’s rival Austin Bold—sought to overturn the deal via a ballot initiative. Earlier this week, Fair Play Austin announced that, because of changes to the ballot language, it would be ending its effort to support the passage of the proposition, which “would do more harm than the good intended when we initially supported it,” according to a press release from the group.
Which means that McConaughey can saunter into work—we assume he saunters everywhere—on Monday mornings and enjoy some stress-free time building his “legacy” with a team he expects to outlive both himself and his children, as he’s told reporters. The team’s likely to be a success: they took deposits for a whopping 30,000 season tickets on the 20,500-seat stadium, which essentially amounts to a sweetheart loan from more than 10,000 fans who will be placed on a waiting list. And with McConaughey as its public ambassador, we’ll expect to hear people say stuff like “Austin F.C. is doing all right, all right, all right in its first year” an awful lot.
(Editor’s note: This piece was updated to reflect that Eddie Margain’s investments are primarily Austin-based.)