The Potential Community Impact of MLS in Austin

In Chris Bils’ Jan 8th, 2018 Statesman article it was discussed how the local youth soccer community would benefit greatly from MLS relocating the Columbus Crew franchise to Austin. The opportunities for local players and coaches for exposure to the top level of American soccer are numerous. An Austin MLS club, along with the Barcelona Academy — opened in 2017 — will put Austin on the map as a destination for those wanting to train through the ranks for their professional footballer dreams.

While the significant impact that an MLS team would bring to the Austin sports community cannot be denied, there is also the huge financial and volunteer impact that MLS clubs provide to their cities and their surrounding communities. In this article, we seek to showcase a few of the many benefits that bringing MLS to Austin will have for our community.

Austinites have long been charitably focused and highly giving of time and money to causes they care about passionately. On Oct 7, 2017 the Austin American-Statesman published an article, in connection with Giving City Austin, that showed Austin as a Top 30 metro area for donations.

Meanwhile, the Corporation for National & Community Service, which runs the Americorps and Senior Corps programs, shows Austin as #23 in the nation for the percentage of population that volunteers their time.

Statistics like these are confirmation of what we of MLS in Austin know, that the addition of an MLS franchise to the city will provide amplified impacts to a community that already values giving back in many ways.

We in MLS in Austin have worked with several non-profit organizations. We believe Austin values align with those espoused by many MLS club foundations, including that of the current Columbus Crew. Our Austin values are what make the the soul of Austin, are embodied in the organizations that make Austin the amazing place to live that it is, and create the culture that MLS desires to join in our wonderful city.

As part of the Imagine Austin project the City captured Austin values in the acronym PRIDE:

P stands for Public Service and Engagement.
R stands for Responsibility and Accountability.
I stands for Innovation and Sustainability.
D stands for Diversity & Inclusion.
E stands for Ethics and Integrity.

We believe the current work being done by the Columbus Crew Foundation can be continued with organizations in Austin that support our identified city values. Per the stated Austin values, we’ve identified four areas of community need where the future MLS in Austin team foundation could exercise an active role in our community:

Education: Support and advocacy for local education solutions.

Environment: Help for organizations which support the beauty and diversity of Austin.

Youth: Involvement with both soccer and non-soccer related charities to support every child in our city to reach their potential in life.

Music and Arts: Music and the Arts are woven deeply into the fabric of our city. We see MLS and our arts community as wonderful companions.

A review of a large number of the current MLS team foundation IRS 990 nonprofit tax filing forms reveals a wide range in foundation income. From the lowest of roughly $80,000 in one year to the highest of over $4.5 million, the average is in the $500,000 — $600,000 operating budget annually.

While dollars are certainly important, what cannot be underestimated is the power of a force, such as a major league franchise, to motivate its supporters to volunteer for causes. We see this charity across the sporting landscape of the US as well as locally with the influence of Longhorn Athletics and Round Rock Express. Our future MLS franchise will enable similar volunteerism with its charitable causes.

“The ability to work with an organization like an MLS team foundation that would focus on our community’s youth would be an absolute game changer for a local non-profit like the Council on At-Risk Youth.” — Jonathan Panzer, CARY Development Director

“The ability to work with an organization like an MLS team foundation that would focus on our community’s youth would be an absolute game changer for a local non-profit like the Council on At-Risk Youth (CARY).” CARY Development Director, Jonathan Panzer explains. “We rely on community support to empower the thousands of at-risk youth in our neighborhoods to help them avoid lives of crime and violence. Creative outlets, such as soccer, can play a key role in changing young people’s lives.” Mr Panzer continued “Not only do we provide services directly to 100 students in each school that we serve, we also impact the people those students interact with at school and the thousands of other people that they interact with on a daily basis. Currently, we are only able to serve about 15% of the need in Travis county and a partnership with an MLS franchise would change that dramatically.”

“We believe in the power of soccer to create real change in our city. We use the game as an educational tool to help low-income students build a foundation for success. Having an MLS franchise in Austin would provide our players with positive role models, proof that no matter where you come from, if you commit yourself to a goal, work tirelessly toward it, and build a community of support around you, success is within reach.” — Kaitlin Swarts, M.Ed., Founder & CEO of Upper Ninety

We at MLS in Austin are most certainly excited about the prospect of MLS coming to our home. The sheer excitement of the game, however, is but one of the benefits of having the team here. We’re also very excited for the potential community benefits outlined here to be realized. Knowing the passion of the people of Austin, whatever we’ve been able to envision to date is surely only a partial amount of what is to come.

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