Austin FC Inaugural Season ‘Absolutely a Success’ Despite On-Field Struggles

Austin FC was built on the mission of uniting the community around soccer while also becoming a flag bearer for the Texas capital.

While Austin FC struggled on the field during its inaugural season, finishing 12th out of 13 teams in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference, the club’s off-field successes laid a promising foundation for future prosperity for the city’s first professional sports franchise.

“We didn’t have a chance to taste the sweet nectar of playoffs in our first year,” says Austin FC president Andy Loughnane, “but the outcome of the standings do not in any way dampen the collective accomplishments of what our community, players and supporters all were able to jointly create in our inaugural season.”

Despite going 9-4-21 (31 points), Austin FC was the only MLS franchise to sell out 100% of its home matches in 2021. The club’s average attendance of 20,738 ranked fifth in the league this season, just ahead of LAFC’s 20,204. Loughnane confirmed a 96% season ticket renewal rate at Q2 Stadium in 2022, with more than 28,000 still on the season ticket waitlist.

The passionate fan base also helped the club have the highest merchandise sales in MLS this season, as well as setting the single-day record for jersey sales with the inaugural jersey launch on November 18, 2020.

Backed by corporate partners including Q2, Yeti, Diageo, PointsBet, adidas, SeatGeek and Lexus, Austin FC ranked No. 2 in MLS sponsorship sales this year.

“It’s recognition that our city, sport, club and supporters are extremely valued and we’re fortunate to be in a position to see that level of validation,” Loughnane says. “I can’t say this enough, but it’s a very favorable commentary on the City of Austin as a world class city.”

The 11th most populous city in the United States saw an average of 180 new residents moving to the Texas capital every day in 2020. Despite the pandemic, approximately 42,000 new residences were built in Austin from March 2020 to February 2021, according to a housing report by Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

While the city continues to grow—Zillow forecasts the Austin metropolitan area is on track to become the least affordable major metro region for homebuyers outside of California by year’s end—more and more people are not only learning about Austin FC, but recognizing its representation of the city.

According to a Qualtrics survey from July, Austin FC and Austin City Limits were tied for second—ahead of SXSW and only behind the University of Texas—when Austinites were asked to identify what brands represent Austin. The club ranked No. 6 and No. 5 in prior surveys conducted in August 2020 and February 2021, respectively.

“Austin FC was formed as a brand for Austin,” Loughnane says. “The brand has carefully been handled to give back to the community—the community that gave the club life in the first place. It’s rewarding and validating to see the way that Austin FC has been embraced within the community. Austin is just a special place and our inaugural season was a very special season. The way the community has embraced this team should provide a very stable foundation for the future.”

NOTE: First appeared on Forbes SportsMoney


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