Columbus Crew SC today announced the club’s USL PRO affiliate partnership with the Austin Aztex, effective immediately for the 2015 campaign. The agreement between the two clubs allows Crew SC to send players from its Major League Soccer roster to the Aztex in its first season in USL PRO in 2015. The partnership is Crew SC’s sole USL PRO affiliate partnership for the upcoming campaign.
“We are very excited about starting a relationship with Austin Aztex to assist our player development efforts,” said Columbus Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. “After a series of meetings with the club, we were impressed with the energy, resources and commitment of their ownership group and new technical staff and feel the club will provide a good environment to continue the development of some of our younger professionals.”
On June 10 this year, the Aztex announced that it would become an expansion club in USL PRO in 2015. The Aztex founded a franchise in the USL’s Premier Development League in 2011. The club went a combined 31-7-6 in regular season play since their inaugural 2012 season, appearing in the Southern Conference championship game every season. In 2013, the club was PDL Champions and the Aztex finished the 2013 campaign with five consecutive single-game attendance records and were among the top ten highest-drawing teams in the league, leading to its 2015 expansion announcement this past June.
“It was important for our organization when choosing our affiliate to make our decision based on the people involved,” said Austin Aztex Head Coach Paul Dalglish. “After a number of meetings and conversations between the ownership groups, management, and technical staff we felt the Austin Aztex and Columbus Crew SC were the ideal match in terms of philosophy on and off the field. We are excited and privileged to partner with Crew SC in our inaugural year.”
USL PRO is currently slated to become a 24-club League in the third tier in the United States soccer pyramid after announcing 10 expansion clubs for the 2015 season. As part of the partnership between MLS and USL PRO announced in January of 2013, MLS teams have the opportunity to partner with a USL PRO side, sending players to a USL PRO affiliate to develop and gain match experience.
The Aztex currently play at House Park, a 5,500 seat stadium located near downtown Austin, the 11th largest city in the United States. The franchise is owned and operated by ATX SOCCER LLC, chaired by Rene Van De Zande, President and CEO of Emergo Group and founded by David Markley, VP of Technology Development for Fallbrook Technologies. In addition, ATX SOCCER LLC grew in 2014 with the addition of Bobby Epstein of Prophet Capital Management and Paul Thornton of TAG Presents as new investors.