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REPORT: Austin Bold FC to relocate to Fort Worth, citing Austin FC's success

Austin Bold FC has suffered plummeting ticket sales in just three years at its COTA stadium. (Austin Bold FC)

Just days before its final home match, ownership of United Soccer League professional team Austin Bold FC reportedly told players and staff that the team would be relocating to Fort Worth, according to a report from The Striker Texas.

Former Austin Bold general manager and Striker co-founder Roberto Silva reported the news via Twitter Tuesday and said that the team would leave Circuit of the Americas at the end of the season but may have to wait a year depending on construction in their new home city.

News first broke of the team's desire to head to greener pastures in August when The Striker's Mark Bay said credible sources confirmed the team's plans to head north under new ownership.

A day later, the United Soccer League franchise announced via Twitter that it was "exploring several options," citing MLS team Austin FC's first-year success and insinuating that Austin is not big enough for both professional sports franchises.

"We love the Austin soccer community and the sport, and are pleased to see it grow," the statement read. "We had hoped there is room for two teams to succeed in the market, but also need to make a decision that's best for the future of the team."

The team ranks 25th of the 29 USL teams in attendance this season, according to Soccer Stadium Digest. Austin Bold has averaged 971 attendees this season, down from 2,395 in its inaugural USL season in 2019.

The scene is a stark contrast from Austin FC's Q2 Stadium, where 20,500 fans regularly pack the brand-new stadium week after week and hundreds travel in Verde hordes to away matches.

While some, including the team itself, have said that the higher-tier MLS team is to blame, others, including some Austin Bold fans themselves, say that poor marketing is the cause for empty seats.

Some say the stadium's location inside Circuit of the Americas, which sits nearly 20 miles from the center of town, has contributed to the team's lack of success, while others say insufficient ownership has led to the team's demise.

The team is owned by Bobby Epstein, COTA's chairman who donated $128,000 to a PAC that aimed to keep Austin FC and their stadium out of town in 2018 when both Austin Bold's 5,000-seat stadium and Austin FC's McKalla Place location were in the works. The move has left a bad taste in the mouth of plenty of Austin soccer fans, including Shawn Collins, who now supports both Austin FC and women's team FC Austin Elite but won't wear the Bold's signature teal and gold.

"The only game I ever went to (at COTA) was FC Austin Elite in 2019 because I didn't want to support Bobby Epstein after he tried to stop Austin FC from coming to be," Collins told Austonia.

Austin Bold has had friction with Austin FC leadership ever since the fateful move, presumably preventing any partnership between the two professional teams.

The team has yet to confirm the move. Epstein told then-Statesman writer Chris Bils that he planned on keeping Austin Bold "just for fun" in 2020 even as the pandemic and upcoming MLS team were significant obstacles to the team's success.

However, North Texas soccer site reported that the team would switch ownership to Neltex Sports Group, LLC. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a proposed stadium in town would seat 10,000, double its Austin location.

It's been a turbulent year for Austin Bold—from midseason head coaching changes to on-field criminal charges and a slew of injuries—but they're still very shakily in playoff contention. At fifth in the Mountain Division, they've still got a slim chance at making playoffs if they win their Saturday match, but they'll be relying on the losses of RGVFC and New Mexico if they're to move up in the ranks.

Austin Bold will have their (likely) final game as—well, Austin Bold—against the Charlotte Independence at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Austin Bold Stadium.

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