The first episode of the new USL Show podcast (not officially related to the league) was released this week. The discussion centers around the current state and possible future of USL, especially relative to MLS. There’s also a lot of discussion of what has happened in Rochester, where the league has taken over management of the 2015 champion Rhinos. In the course of that talk (at about the 1-hour, 12-minute point), panelist Brendan Doherty discloses information from unnamed sources at other teams that, if true, shows how dire the Aztex financial situation was.
So [the Rhinos situation] is a little bit different than Austin, then. They’ve asked and have received permission to take a year off, and I was wondering why the league didn’t step in and just assume operations with them for a year or so. But it sounds like they’ve got a plan to come back, whereas [former Rhinos owner] Mr. Clark did not.”
Yeah, it’s tough because Austin was just managed terribly, on the financial side. There’s a local Austin reporter that I linked to in my piece on The Bent Musket, I want to say his name is Kevin Lyttle, writing for a local Austin paper. He said that they drove up a million dollars worth of operating debt, with a two-million dollar operating budget. So they had budgeted two million, and spent three million.
I’ve heard from employees of two different USL teams that Austin had actually, basically, held out all their players, and said, to every other team in the league, ‘you can take any of our players for free, no questions asked. We need to cut our roster, we overpaid for these players, please just take these players away from us.’ That was in preseason for the 2015 season, so even before the season started, they had drastically overpaid for everything.
This remarkable claim isn’t one we’ve heard before. Without knowing the details of players’ contracts, one has to wonder: if salary costs were so out of control, why were no players simply cut? Also, if any player was offered “for free, no questions asked”, why weren’t any players taken? In any case, it seems that if and when Austin returns to USL, the organization will have a less than stellar reputation to overcome.