Crew near Columbus stay after agreement reached with new owners

Jimmy Haslam Columbus Crew
Jason Miller
The MLS side is now all but certain to remain in central Ohio after a grassroots campaign to keep the club from moving to Austin

Major League Soccer has announced that an agreement in principle has been reached for the Haslam and Edwards families to take over ownership of the Columbus Crew. 

The agreement means that the Crew are now set to remain in Ohio after current owner Anthony Precourt's continued efforts to move the team to Austin, Texas. 

Following more than a year of legal and public opinion battles between Precourt and the city of Columbus, a solution is near that will result in both sides retaining a MLS franchise. 

Precourt will be given an expansion franchise, Austin FC, which will begin play either in 2020 or 2021. 

The Crew, meanwhile, will remain in Columbus under new ownership and continue to seek a new downtown stadium, which is nearing approval after a public/private funding venture was confirmed by the state of Ohio earlier this month. 

"After several months of discussions, we are extremely pleased to have reached an agreement in principle with the Haslam and Edwards families for them to assume an ownership position in Major League Soccer and operate Columbus Crew SC starting in January, 2019," MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a league statement.

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"While we work to finalize the deal promptly, we want to state publicly the tremendous collaboration and community support for Crew SC, which has set the stage for a powerful plan that includes a world-class soccer stadium – a critical step that will help ensure the club’s success on and off the field," Garber said.

The Haslam family, owner of the NFL's Cleveland Browns, hailed the announcement as a victory for Columbus. 

“When we began exploring the possibility of keeping Crew SC in Columbus, the process started with an appreciation for the benefits a professional sports franchise brings to a region. We quickly began positive discussions with Major League Soccer - the league office and many of the league’s owners," Dee and Jimmy Haslam and Pete Edwards said in a statement. 

“We are extremely grateful for the efforts of the Columbus community, as well as Crew SC fans, to help us efficiently complete and fulfill the requirements and deadlines set by Major League Soccer that will help ensure the success of Crew SC on and off the field.

“Throughout our conversations, it’s been overwhelmingly clear that Crew SC belongs in Columbus, and we are thrilled to have reached an agreement in principle to assume an ownership position in Major League Soccer and to operate Columbus Crew SC."