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Could more pro soccer be on its way to Austin? A new NWSL team may be closer than you think
(FC Austin Elite/Twitter)

Less than a week before Austin FC packs their bags for their inaugural match, team president Andy Loughnane told SportBusiness the club is considering bringing a National Women's Soccer League team to Austin.

"We're very intrigued with the idea of developing the best possible plan to explore the creation of a new women's team to compete at the top level of women's soccer and play home matches in front of a sold-out crowd at Q2 Stadium," Loughnane said.

The top-flight women's soccer team would be part of the NWSL, the premier U.S. women's league. Boosted by the success of the U.S. Women's National Team and booming interest in soccer, the NWSL has the highest average attendance per game of any women's professional sport league in the U.S. The league also features three "sister teams" with the MLS, two partnerships with USL teams and a team that is affiliated with a French Ligue I team.

"We need to successfully launch Austin FC in MLS as the first step," Loughnane said. "Yes, we think that eventually a top-flight women's team and a top-flight men's team can be complementary and successful together as co-inhabitants of Q2 Stadium and St. David's Performance Center."

Luckily, fans of women's soccer won't have to wait too much longer with a different professional league soon to be in town.

Years before Austin FC became the city's first professional soccer team, the newly-formed "MLS in Austin" group made sure to follow one team first—FC Austin Elite, the city's semipro women's soccer club that has been representing their city since before the "boomtown" hype. FC Austin Elite will soon upgrade into Austin's first professional women's soccer team. It will be joining a new Division II professional league next year.

As Austin FC has worked to stack their roster, FC Austin Elite has been doing the same. The club's newest signees include international pros, former NWSL stars and college graduates ready to take their talents to the next level.

"We are actually out recruiting professional players," Woodfill said. "Everybody in the country wants to come to Austin right now, and now they can play pro soccer now in Austin as women."

As an NWSL team comes into fruition, the two teams can form a mutually beneficial partnership and help build a "pipeline" for women to continue their athletic pursuits after college.

For now, the club is focused on its upcoming season. Formerly a summer league, it has expanded through October and will have 15 home games this season.

Just as La Murga will be seen drumming up the crowd at Austin FC games, the band and other dedicated soccer fans will be seen at the Elite matches.

"We've known those people from the beginning, and those are still the same fans that we have today," Woodfill said. "The Los Verdes members, the Austin Anthem members, they're the same people that are diehard fans for us, too. I think that when we all work together, it blows up even more."

After their season kicks off, the team is most looking forward to an ultimate soccer weekend as they play against a mysterious international "special guest team" on Friday, June 18, the day before Austin FC's inaugural home match on Saturday, June 19.


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