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Crew to stay in Columbus under new owners, MLS announces

The owners of the NFL's Cleveland Browns and a Columbus-based family have agreed in principle to take over ownership of the Columbus Crew from January, Major League Soccer announced on Friday.

Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam and Columbus investors led by Pete Edwards Jr will take over ownership of the 22-year-old franchise from Precourt Sports Ventures, effectively ending a year of uncertainty over whether owner Anthony Precourt would move the MLS franchise to Austin, Texas.

"After several months of discussions, we are extremely pleased to have reached an agreement in principle with the Haslam and Edwards families for them to assume an ownership position in Major League Soccer and operate Columbus Crew SC starting in January 2019," MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.

The announcement comes on the heels of December approvals by Ohio and Columbus officials of a public-private partnership to build a new downtown soccer stadium for the team, who currently play at MAPFRE Stadium.

"While we work to finalise the deal promptly, we want to state publicly the tremendous collaboration and community support for Crew SC, which has set the stage for a powerful plan that includes a world-class soccer stadium — a critical step that will help ensure the club's success on and off the field," Garber said.

The Haslam and Edwards families also have collaborated on the search for new leadership after Gregg Berhalter departed this month to take over as coach of the United States national side, the league said.

Also on Friday, the City of Columbus and the state of Ohio filed notice with the Franklin County (Ohio) Court of Common Pleas to dismiss their joint lawsuit against Major League Soccer and Precourt Sports Ventures, filed over the potential relocation of the Crew.