Austin Aztex join Colorado Springs, Louisville, Saint Louis, Tulsa as 2015 additions
TAMPA, FL June 10, 2014 – USL PRO is pleased to announce 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 as the league realizes its blueprint for steady, regionalized growth.
The Aztex are owned and operated by ATX SOCCER LLC, which includes Chairman Rene van de Zande, President and CEO of Emergo Group, a leading medical device consultancy with offices in 25 countries. Additional partners include Austin-based Formula One racing track Circuit of the Americas Founder and Chairman Bobby Epstein, and Paul Thornton, president of TAG Presents, Circuit of America’s events management company. The strong, local ownership group is rounded out byDavid Markley, VP of Technology Development for Fallbrook Technologies, the founder of ATX SOCCER LLC.
“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.
“Today’s announcement represents yet another important milestone in our continued objective of expanding USL PRO into emergent cities that are primed to support professional soccer in a significant way. This ‘next generation’ of ambitious professional soccer markets joining USL PRO serves to further define the league’s importance in providing the most vibrant domestic professional soccer league model in support of and in cooperation with MLS. Further exciting expansion plans and major announcements are upcoming.”
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.
“The Austin Aztex are proud to be a member of this prestigious league and we look forward to contributing to its continued success. We are also very excited about the recent formation of a strong Aztex owners group which will allow us to continue building our franchise in a city that deserves professional soccer at the highest levels. Our ambition is to turn the Austin Aztex into a ‘house of excellence’ geared towards nurturing and developing the best professional players on and off the field.”
USL PRO features 14 teams in 2014 with new teams in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Louisville, Kentucky, St. Louis, Missouri and Tulsa, Oklahoma already announced for 2015. 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.
For the past several years USL PRO has been part of a groundbreaking partnership with MLS that has further elevated the quality and stature of USL PRO, strengthened the competition in both leagues, and established a solid foundation for future collaboration.
USL PRO is the strongest U.S. men’s professional soccer league on and off the field below and in support of Major League Soccer (MLS). Focused on league stability and franchise performance longevity, USL PRO features 14 teams in 2014, including expansion teams in Los Angeles, Oklahoma City and Sacramento. Teams have already been announced for 2015 in Colorado Springs, Louisville, St. Louis and Tulsa, with more additions expected soon. Through aggressive and deliberate growth in adding teams fully capable of meeting USL and US Soccer standards, USL PRO is building a robust, national professional soccer league in a format that promotes the benefits of regional league play. In 2013 USL PRO began a groundbreaking, multi-year partnership with MLS that features individual team affiliations, inter-league play, and the opportunity for MLS clubs to field a second team in USL PRO. In addition to league play, USL PRO teams compete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as well as various domestic and international exhibitions. USL PRO is the longest-standing pro league affiliate member of US Soccer.