On June 10, USL PRO announced the addition of the Austin Aztex as its 18th franchise, continuing the league’s dramatic growth throughout the central and southwest United States. Joining Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Louisville City FC, Saint Louis FC and Tulsa Roughnecks FC, Austin will debut in USL PRO for the 2015 season.
“USL PRO is extremely pleased to welcome Austin, Texas, the fastest-growing city in the United States, to our league for the 2015 season,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “Austin’s ownership group, under the leadership of Rene van de Zande, will offer the local fans a strong, dynamic sports and entertainment experience.”
Founded in 2011 as a member of the PDL, the Aztex made an immediate impact and reached the post-season in 2012 representing the Mid-South Division. The Aztex continued their remarkable ascent in 2013, defeating the Thunder Bay Chill in front of 4,253 fans at House Park to capture the PDL Championship.
“After two very successful seasons on the field in the PDL - which included a 2013 national championship and a steadily growing fan base - we are ready to move to the USL PRO level,” van de Zande said. "We have a clear vision for what we want to achieve with our club in Austin and joining USL PRO is part of this. We commend USL PRO for developing a strong and high quality league as well as for the relationship it has established with Major League Soccer.”
USL PRO features 14 teams in 2014 with new teams in Colorado Springs, Louisville, Kentucky, St. Louis, and Tulsa already announced for 2015. In addition, Michigan Bucks owner Dan Duggan has reached a preliminary agreement with USL PRO to bring a professional outdoor soccer team to the Detroit market starting in the 2015 season.
As part of the league’s expansion west of the Mississippi, the LA Galaxy II, OKC Energy FC and Sacramento Republic FC began USL PRO play in 2014.
Much of USL PRO’s growth and success can be attributed to their multi-year partnership with Major League Soccer (MLS).