Major League Soccer registered trademarks this month on two possible names for a potential Austin franchise, but on Wednesday, a league official tamped down any special significance area fans might attach to the move.
Austin FC and Austin Athletic are now owned by MLS, a development that first surfaced online Tuesday night when a soccer blogger, Jerome Cortinovis, tweeted screenshots of search results.
“It is not unusual for Major League Soccer to trademark names that could be used for a variety of business purposes unrelated to expansion,” MLS executive vice president Dan Courtemanche told the American-Statesman.
Courtemanche also said that only the 12 markets that submitted bids on Jan. 31 will be considered for the next four MLS expansion teams, and he pointed out that Austin was not among those bidding. San Antonio, backed by the NBA Spurs Entertainment Group, made a bid and remains in the running for a club.
MLS officials could not answer Wednesday whether Austin is the only city not on the bidding list to have trademarked team names. Relocating an exisiting MLS franchise would be the other way to bring a team to Austin.
MLS has 22 teams now, but will add Los Angeles next year and wants to soon bring Miami into the fold. League commissioner Don Garber said MLS will grow to 26 teams by 2020 and then expand to 28 at a later date.
Garber sang Austin’s praises as a potential MLS market at South by Southwest this year.
Austin will regain a United Soccer League franchise in 2019 that will play at a new 5,000-seat stadium at Circuit of the Americas. The Austin Aztex competed in U.S. soccer’s Triple-A league, which has close ties to MLS, in 2015 before suspending operations because of financial woes tied to the lack of a soccer-specific venue.
FC Austin has been mentioned as a possible name for the new USL club, though that decision likely won’t be made for months.
USL Austin officials chose not to react to the news of the MLS trademarks.
“We have no comment,” Roberto Pinto da Silva Jr., COTA special projects director, told the American-Statesman on Wednesday. “We’re focused on USL.”