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AUSTIN, Texas (Tuesday, June 10, 2014)  —The Austin Aztex are pleased to announce the addition of professional soccer to the sports landscape in Austin, Texas. As Austin’s soccer team, the Aztex will join USL PRO to begin play in the 2015 season.

“After two very successful seasons on the field in the USL Premier Development League — which included a 2013 national championship and a steadily growing fan base — we are ready to move to the USL PRO level,” said Austin Aztex owner Rene van de Zande. “We have a clear vision for what we want to achieve with our club in Austin and joining USL PRO is part of this.  The recent formation of a strong Aztex owners group allows 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.”

Additionally, Austin-area soccer advocates Bobby Epstein and Paul Thornton have joined ATX SOCCER LLC, the ownership group of the Austin Aztex, to aid the franchise’s growth into a premier sports and entertainment property in the United States. The new additions create an Aztex ownership group that combines an intimate knowledge of Austin soccer with the experience of organizing and producing global sporting events and concerts including Formula 1, USGP and ESPN X Games.

“By bringing together friends and families, sports unite communities and dissolve boundaries,” Epstein said. “I’m excited to be a part of taking the Austin Aztex and their championship brand of soccer to the next level.”

Mr. Thornton will play an active role and utilize his background in marketing, fan experience, and revenue generation to help the business development of the Aztex organization, while fueling his passion for the sport of soccer.

”I am thrilled to join this team that has already achieved such great success, and do what I can to help the organization succeed at the next level,” Thornton said. ”The sport of soccer plays a major role in our family as we love this game.  My oldest, Cole, is heading off to play striker in college next year, and Jaxson plays goalkeeper at an elite club level.  To be part of introducing a pro soccer team in Austin has had our house buzzing.”

The Austin Aztex are the fourth USL PRO expansion team announced for 2015, joining Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Tulsa Roughnecks FC, and St Louis FC. The addition of the Aztex grows the league’s membership to 18 clubs for 2015.

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. In January 2013 USL PRO entered into 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.

“Since the day we founded ATX Soccer LLC in 2011, we have been building a foundation for professional soccer in Austin,” noted Aztex founder and co-owner David Markley.  “We took a grass-roots approach and did not rush the process.  We took the time to form the right local ownership group and build a solid infrastructure to ensure the future success of Austin’s soccer team.  Our current team has already produced eight players drafted by MLS teams in two years, and the relationship between USL PRO and MLS provides a unique opportunity to partner with an MLS affiliate who would place at least four players on our roster.  The decision to join USL PRO at this time provides professional soccer to local fans next season, a platform for year-round training and player development, and an added catalyst as we continue to work with community leaders in pursuit of a future soccer-specific stadium in which we will play.”

The Austin Aztex currently play at House Park, a 5,500 seat stadium located near downtown Austin. The Aztex enjoy a strong home field advantage at House Park, where more than 4,250 fans attended the USL PDL Championship game in 2013.

About the Austin Aztex

The Austin Aztex currently compete in the USL Premier Development League (PDL) under the helm of head coach Manuel Buentello. The team won the 2013 League Championship in just their second year in operation. The Aztex finished the 2013 season with one of the top records in the league as well as individual accolades, including Coach of the Year (Paul Dalglish), PDL Most Valuable Player (Kris Tyrpak), and PDL Championship MVP (Sito Seoane). The Aztex finished the 2013 campaign with five consecutive single-game attendance records and were among the top ten highest-drawing teams in the league, earning the USL PDL Franchise of the Year award. The franchise is owned and operated by ATX SOCCER LLC, chaired by Rene Van De Zande, President and CEO of Emergo Group and founder David Markley, VP of Technology Development for Fallbrook Technologies. For more information, visit www.austinaztex.com.

About Bobby Epstein

Bobby Epstein is the managing general partner of Prophet Capital Management as well as the co-founder and chairman of the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). Epstein has been at the forefront of bringing major sporting events to Austin including Formula 1 USGP and ESPN X Games.

About Paul Thornton

Paul Thornton was the founder and president of Bravo Entertainment, a leading live entertainment promoter, and is currently president of TAG Presents.  He is a 20 year veteran of producing large scale events including concerts, sporting events, and festivals.  Since moving to the Austin area he has produced the concerts at the Austin360 Amphitheater, the Formula 1 USGP entertainment, the Austin Fan Fest, RedFest, and just this last weekend the ESPN X Games Festival.

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