AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt got a major boost to his effort to move the Major League Soccer club to Texas when the Austin City Council voted Wednesday to move ahead with a plan for a new, privately funded stadium on city land.

Precourt has been courting Austin for a potential move since late 2017 and has sought a deal to build a 20,000-seat stadium on 24 acres of city property in time for the 2021 MLS season.

Austin is the largest metropolitan area in the country without a major league sports franchise. The 7-4 vote allows city staff to "negotiate and execute" a stadium plan with Precourt Sports Ventures. The final contract would not need another council vote.

"It's been a long, emotional process," Precourt said. "We're thrilled to move forward. The work starts now and we're bringing Major League Soccer to Austin, Texas."

The San Francisco-based investor bought the Crew in 2013 and moving the team would uproot a bedrock MLS franchise that won the league championship in 2008. The Crew is in the hunt for a playoff berth this season. Precourt has said he wants to move because of poor attendance, lack of corporate support and an aging stadium in Columbus.

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