Ah, the business of soccer in America. Just when a club (I use that word ironically, despite treating it as a synonym for "franchise" in an American context) begins to take root, just when the fan base is growing and just when a supporters groups see success in building their numbers, it's all taken away.

I feel for fans of the Austin Aztex today, after Brian Quarstad of Inside Minnesota Soccer dropped the bombshell that team might be headed east to Orlando. Owner Phil Rawlins will supposedly cut both his stake in the team by bringing in new investors and the costs of running it by relocating. The rumored move is predicated on joining USL-PRO and that league's lower cost regional model.

The Aztex have a rabid and vocal support base.  One of the better team-focused blogs in all of American soccer is dedicated to the team, and their supporters group is active and engaged.  The team's attendance rose sharply in 2010, proof that perhaps the team is making in-roads with the community.  After just three years in existence, the Aztex are clearly one of the lower divisions franchises on the way up; with as much flux as that division has seen in recent times, a strong club with a committed owner in Austin was a positive sign for the future.  If the team does relocate, consider it another market burned (for now) and another mark against the business of professional soccer in the United States.

There are a few semantic issues involved in this story, including the possibility that Orlando's new team won't technically be a relocated Aztex.

Some Aztex fans are panicking, and rightly so.  Others are holding back until something official comes down.  If the Aztex are moving or folding, or in any way leaving the city of Austin, it will be another sad example of just how cold the business of soccer can be in America, as well as reinforcement that US Soccer's mandate as the sanctioning body of our domestic leagues is to find a way to stabilize the situation.

They've taken steps towards stability with the new guidelines for Division II, rules which may actually be a factor in the Aztex rumored move.  Left without a league in the NASL/USL split, unable or unwilling to meet the financial requirements of D2 and too distant from other USL-PRO clubs to slide easily into that set up, the Aztex are in a difficult position.

For Aztex fans' sake, let's hope Phil Rawlins doesn't take the easy way out.
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