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By ESPN Staff

Houston officially welcomes MLS franchise

HOUSTON -- Major League Soccer made its move from San Jose to Houston official with a downtown ceremony on a chilly Friday morning.

With temperatures in the mid-40s, Mayor Bill White and other city dignitaries welcomed one of the MLS' most successful franchises, which failed to reach an agreement for a new soccer-specific stadium in San Jose last week.

"What a great day for the city of Houston and its sports fans and soccer fans," said White, who presented coach Dominic Kinnear and two of his players with cowboy boots.

Oliver Luck, a former Houston Oilers quarterback who spent 10 years in Germany working for NFL Europe, will be the first president of the franchise, which plans to hold a contest for a nickname to replace Earthquakes. Luck, CEO of the Harris County Houston Sports Authority, has been trying to lure pro soccer to Houston.

"Houston has always been a city to welcome new things and new industries," Luck said."And this is a very culturally diverse city. All of the communities work well together here, and I think that will be true when they get behind the soccer team."

The team, which will make its Houston debut in April, still seeks a soccer-specific venue but will play at least the next three years at the University of Houston's football home, 32,000-seat Robertson Stadium. UH athletic director Dave Maggard said the school wants to keep the team there.

"I've looked at facilities all over the country," Maggard said. "And I think they will find our stadium is one of the best for soccer anywhere."

AEG President and CEO Timothy J. Leiweke, whose company owns the franchise, was enthusiastic about the move. "This is not an expansion franchise," Leiweke said. "This is one of the best teams in the MLS. You're getting an extraordinary franchise."