Austin has been mentioned in recent years by the commissioner of Major League Soccer as a potential expansion city, but an MLS team could arrive another way.

Columbus Crew SC, which has been playing in MLS since the league's inception in 1996, is exploring a move to Austin.

Precourt Sports Ventures LLC, which bought the Columbus, Ohio-based club in 2013, is evaluating the long-term viability of keeping the club in Columbus at a new stadium or relocating to Austin.

“This club has ambition to be a standard bearer in MLS; therefore, we have no choice but to expand and explore all of our options," said Anthony Precourt, CEO of Precourt Sports Ventures and Columbus Crew SC chairman, in a news release. "This includes a possible move to Austin, which is the largest metropolitan area in North America without a major league sports franchise. Soccer is the world’s game, and with Austin’s growing presence as an international city, combined with its strong multicultural foundation, MLS in Austin could be an ideal fit.”

Moving to Austin would require the ownership group to find a league-approved stadium, according to the news release. A spokesperson for the relocation effort said Tuesday morning that public funding would not be sought for a stadium.

According to MLS Commissioner Don Garber, the Crew is near the bottom of the league in all business metrics, including attendance and franchise value. Its stadium, built in 1998, is not up to MLS standards, he said in the release.

"The league is very reluctant to allow teams to relocate, but based on these factors, we support PSV’s efforts to explore options outside of Columbus, including Austin, provided they find a suitable stadium location," Garber said.