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The Texas soccer trinity: How Austin FC could shake up a three-team Lone Star rivalry

Texas teams FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo play against each other in the Texas Derby.

Everything's bigger in Texas, including a potentially legendary three-team MLS rivalry.

With the announcement of La Copita, or "The Best Little Cup in Texas," over the weekend, Lone Star soccer fans are already getting a taste of what can only heat up into a full blown Texas rivalry as Austin FC's first-ever season begins.

La Copita will feature Texas teams Austin FC, FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo, as well as Texas USL team San Antonio FC going head-to-head just before the 2021 season starts.

For Austin FC, it'll be the first chance to grace the field against teams at their level, but for fans of each club, it will hopefully foreshadow how the Texan clubs will compete, interact and come together for seasons to come.

Longtime Los Verdes member and all-around soccer aficionado Imani Williams, who will be flying in from a year in the Netherlands just in time for the club's first big ATXFC celebration, said that La Copita will let Austin FC prove itself to Lone Star adversaries for the first time.

"I think in large part, (the rivalry is) already there," Williams said. "People are definitely charged up. Austin's the new kid in town, and we kind of want to prove that we deserve this, we belong here."

By the time Austin FC rolled into the state's soccer scene, existing Texas teams FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo already had a significant rivalry going in their annual cup, dubbed the Texas Derby. The winner of the derby, which is determined by who earns the most points from MLS regular season matches, is prized 18th century mountain howitzer cannon El Capitán.

Some fans of FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo have already expressed their distaste for the MLS's newest darling, which already has a 10,000 plus-person waiting list for season tickets.

Josh McGlasson, who moved to Austin from Dallas 13 years ago and has since switched allegiances from FC Dallas to Austin FC, said that many FC Dallas fans including ex-pats like himself are not happy about his switch in allegiance or the club itself, but are excited to have new matches to easily travel to.

"It's been really funny kind of talking to those guys and being mildly apologetic for leaving the group," McGlasson said. "A few of them aren't exactly thrilled with the ownership and kind of how the team came about but they are excited for the rivalry and for some extra away games to go to."

Austin FC will bring new intensity to the mix because it is a team already built on rivalry itself. McGlasson said that Austin is a soccer city full of diehard soccer fans of all creeds and crests. As a member of Austin FC fan club Los Verdes, McGlasson said he's seen fans of even the most bitter rivalry teams come together to represent the Verde flag.

"In parts of the country or the world, you wouldn't ever find Rangers and Celtic fans in the same room together, but here in Austin, that kind of joint appreciation for the same club kind of brings you together," McGlasson said. "There's been so many rival supporters groups in town that are used to bantering back and forth and not supporting the same team, and now we have a single flag to kind of unify under."

Both Los Verdes and fellow fan club Austin Anthem have already been in communication with FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo groups to create an immersive and fun environment around the games. McGlasson said that many FC Dallas fans in Austin and Austin FC fans alike are preparing for celebrations for gamedays in Dallas, Houston and even Denver for the team's first nationally-broadcast game against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, April 24.

Regardless of rivalry, many soccer fans can agree that the "world's sport" changes lives, builds communities and gives people something to cheer for. That's exactly what Los Verdes and the Texas soccer community are eager to be a part of, Williams said.

"We want to give people some of the best times of their lives," Williams said. "This is the kind of community that people meet best friends for life or their future partners. And it all happens within this like crazy cascade of color. It's a beautiful, organized chaos. I think we all could use a little bit of that camaraderie."

Austin FC will sow the seeds for a Texas rivalry legacy in La Copita with preseason scrimmages against the Houston Dynamo FC at home at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 3, away at FC Dallas at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 7 and at home against San Antonio FC at 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 10.

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