The Pathway

Austin FC homegrown Owen Wolff chases new heights | The Pathway

Growing up in a soccer family, Owen Wolff's destiny was clear.

Despite him and his older brother Tyler trying their luck at baseball when they were younger, it would always come back to following in their dad’s footsteps. That path took Owen from playing in the Columbus Crew and Atlanta United academies to eventually joining Austin FC and becoming the club’s first-ever homegrown player signing in September 2021 at the tender age of 16.

Since then, Wolff has blossomed into a prominent midfielder in Major League Soccer – earning 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR honors for the 2023 season (No. 18 spot). His growth throughout the years also helped land him US youth national team call-ups, starting five matches at the FIFA U-20 World Cup last spring.

Those accolades can be traced back to his experience going through MLS developmental systems. Now 19, he’s barely scratching the surface.

“Coming from all these different academies, I definitely evolved as a player and person,” Wolff told “Growing up I got to experience playing at different age levels. In my academy years, I would usually play up age groups, and then I came to Austin and I had to play down a year just to get games.”

The challenges of those early teenage years and being the younger/smaller kid on the field were essential parts of the journey. It created a toughness he still leans on today as he finds himself in a familiar situation, just on a much larger scale.

And the overarching message he followed as an academy player still resonates.

“Always work hard, be open to learning and listening to coaches and players,” Wolff said. “Continue to improve. There’s always room for improvement.”

The pressures of being Austin FC’s first homegrown player aren't lost on him, nor is his dad Josh Wolff, a former USMNT and MLS forward, being his head coach. The second part could present a tricky balancing act, but he’s ready to tackle it because he’s taken the correct steps.

“I feel that the academy is really good for individual development,” Owen explained. “Throughout the years you’ve seen that it has gotten a lot better – younger players breaking through to first teams and getting attention.”

That is exactly what Wolff did, making his MLS debut two months after turning pro. He hasn’t looked back since.

On March 11, 2023, he scored his first professional goal in a 2-1 win at Real Salt Lake. That’s a major moment for any youngster, but it was Wolff’s way of putting himself on the radar. And the goal itself was a microcosm of his career so far, having also helped Austin to a Western Conference Final appearance in 2022.

“In the moment I was a little shocked, surprised and excited,” Wolff said of his goal. “I found space, took my space, saw that I had time and took my shot.”

The same approach and confidence have allowed him to be an important part of Austin FC's young story, playing alongside midfielders Sebastián Driussi, Alexander Ring and Dani Pereira.

Those are more than just teammates – they’re role models who inspire him and he hopes to emulate as his career progresses.

“It’s been really good for me,” Wolff said. “I actually learn a lot just from watching. I don’t even really have to talk to these guys. I feel like the relationships between all of them with me has really grown throughout the years.”

In a short time, the journey has taken Wolff far. When he reminisces about his academy days, he mentions trips to showcase tournaments and being able to play in different countries.

His dream, of course, is to one day play in Europe. Although everyone’s path to success might be different, the mindset remains the same from when he was just getting started: keep learning and growing.

“The way that it happened was just fine with me; I don’t think I’d change anything,” Wolff said about his pathway. “Just have to make the most of it and do everything I can to become the best I can.”