The Columbus Crew are potentially moving to Austin, Texas after this season is finished. Anthony Precourt, the Crew's owner, says that he thinks it's in the best interest of the franchise to explore moving. Game attendance is rapidly growing and the franchise is in need of more stadium seating. To solve the problem, Precourt is hoping to build a new, larger stadium in downtown Columbus. If the stadium can't be built, though, the team will look to move to Austin. That's despite the fact that the Crew are one of the first clubs in MLS, they made the Cup finals in 2015, and they have a strong fan base. Those fans are organizing to try to persuade Precourt and MLS to understand how important the club is to the fabric of the soccer community. This effort is called #SaveTheCrew.
The Columbus Crew also has a youth soccer development program called Crew Jr.’s that many local children play for. According to a March Columbus Crew SC press release, if the Crew move, the Crew Jr’s program will undergo changes and it will become Sporting Columbus. This will happen for the 2018-2019 youth club season. New uniforms and some new coaches will give the club a different look. The #SaveTheCrew campaign has major implications for this youth soccer program.
Abby Onstad is 11 years old, and is also the daughter of the Crew’s assistant coach Pat Onstad. She is currently playing for the Crew Jr’s and has been since 2014. She takes after her goalkeeper father as she plays half of her games in net, and the rest out on the soccer field. If the Crew do finalize the move to Austin, her family will most likely move right along with them. “It is definitely not the best thing, but it isn’t the worse,” says Abby. She lived in Houston previously for five years and has friends and family there. But she does worry about leaving some of the best friends she has ever had and that her older brother would have to leave Columbus for his senior year of high school.
Laurel Tucker is another Crew Jr. player and has been with the club for five years. Laurel is a huge fan of the Crew and always finds joy in getting to go to their home games. Laurel said that she “would love to still be a Crew Jr. and be one forever.” She also feels it would be a shame to lose some of the great players she has grown up watching.
As Abby states, “life isn’t about where you live or whether or not your moving. It is about friendships, bonds and memories that bring joy to you.” Many believe that soccer creates a positive bond among fellow fans and supporters. The youth soccer program can help to create long-lasting relationships between teammates on and off the soccer field. Fans, and youth soccer players, in Columbus are hopeful the #SaveTheCrew movement will allow them to continue to create memories of watching their favorite club playing at Mapfre Stadium.
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