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Is this it for Columbus away?

With the start of the 2019 season five months away, the future of the Crew remains in doubt

MLS: Eastern Conference Championship-Toronto FC at Columbus Crew SC Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Way back in January when the 2018 Major League Soccer schedule was released one of the first games that stood out to me was Columbus away on September 29th.

This is what I wrote at the time:

Hopefully two things happen before September 29 that will make this game less important: 1. The Crew announce that they will be staying in Columbus and 2. The Union will have already clinched a playoff spot.

Since both of these things happening seems unlikely, this could end up being the last chance Union fans have to say goodbye to an MLS original while also rooting for them to lose 4 nill.

Neither of these things, of course, have happened.

While we know that MLS will be in Ohio next year with FC Cincinnati playing their inaugural season in the league, the question about whether there will be a team in Columbus or Austin remains an open one.

A logo has been released — and panned — for the would-be Austin FC, but not much else has been made public since that indicates the Texas capital’s readiness for top flight soccer.

The result is cautious optimism for those who follow the original MLS franchise.

“I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that the Crew will remain in Columbus but who knows what will happen next that could change that,” said Patrick Murphy, of our SB Nation friends at Massive Report.

The will-they-stay-or-will-they-go saga has been ongoing since last October when Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt announced that he was exploring options for either a new stadium in Columbus or a potential move to the city of Austin.

Nearly a year later, the ownership has not announced where the team will play in 2019.

“I’m confused why they haven’t just announced this team will stay and Anthony (Precourt) will get an expansion team to start as soon as it’s ready, but none of this has made sense,” Murphy said. “There’s also the legal matter, which has not been resolved.”

The legal matter is a lawsuit filed by the state and the city under a law passed in 1996 after the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore. The “Art Modell Law” as it’s commonly referred was passed in an effort to prevent professional sports teams using tax-supported facilities and public financing from relocating to another market.

Crew supporter Brent Miller is much more upbeat about the team’s future than he was when he traveled to Chester for the Crew’s game against the Union back in March. The Sons of Ben tifo that day expressed support for the #SaveTheCrew efforts.

“I actually feel very positive and fully believe that we will keep our team roster and all,” he said. “Nothing is official either way but negotiations are on going with the league. I think there are some pretty positive signs — increased visibility of marketing, and some other signs of “normalcy,” whatever that can be anymore.”

If this turns out to not be the Union’s last game at MAPFRE Stadium, Saturday’s match is still a potentially historic one.

One point separates the two teams in the standings. A win for the blue and gold would put them in the driver’s seat to host a home playoff game with three games left. A loss would be a blow to a team already reeling a bit from losing the U.S. Open Cup final in Houston on Wednesday night.

Missing the playoffs is a long shot at this point — D.C. United has two games in hand but are 11 points back in seventh place and New England Revolution are also 11 points back with one game in hand.