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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.
Now to find a proper name...
Everything's Bigger Cup, Buc-ee's Cup, Texas Triangle Cup, @Whataburger Cup, Lone Star State Cup, Bluebonnet Cup, Armadillo Cup, @TxDOT Don't Mess W/Texas Cup, @LoneStarBeer World Champs, Cactus Cup, Texas World Cup? #AustinFC #FCDallas #ForeverOrange https://t.co/2Xv2kBYQUz
— Josh Jackson ⚽🤘 (@joshjaxon) February 13, 2021
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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After Austin voters passed Proposition B, reinstating a ban on public camping, City Council directed staff to look into possible sanctioned campsites where homeless residents could live legally. Now two members are asking to shelve discussion on the controversial topic.
Staff presented dozens of possible sanctioned campsites across each fo the 10 council districts in late May, following the election. But members mostly pushed back on the proposed locations, citing cost, wildfire risk and lack of transparency as concerns.
With updated criteria, staff recommended two sites—one in District 1 and the other in District 8—for further review last week. After being briefed on the options during Tuesday's work session, Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison, who represents District 1, and Council Member Paige Ellis, who represents District 8, issued a joint statement proposing "a pause" on further discussion of temporary sanctioned encampments.
"We are not convinced that these sites would be a cost-effective solution, but rather a band-aid tactic when we need to be supporting the long-term strategy to get folks off the street permanent," they said. "It is our responsibility to look at the situation holistically and objectively, and to spend out city's limited resources on solutions we know can work."
Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey noted that the two locations were imperfect and would require a lot of time and money to outfit as sanctioned campsites during the briefing.
City staff and homeless experts have previously raised concerns about sanctioned encampments, saying they are expensive to maintain, challenging to manage and hard to close, even when intended to to be temporary.
In 2019, staff declined to make recommendations for such sites despite being directed by council to do so, citing 2018 guidance from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. "Neither authorized encampments nor parking areas provide housing for people experiencing homelessness," staff wrote in a memo. "Rather, each option detracts from the staff resources assigned to addressing this moral imperative."
But with Prop B being enforced and too few shelter beds and affordable units for the estimate unsheltered homeless population in Austin, the city is facing the same predicament that prompted District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo to pursue possible sanctioned campsites in the first place: "When individuals in encampments ask where they should go, we need to have places to suggest," she said at a May 6 council meeting.
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Don't lose your mask just yet—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it is now recommending masks in areas that are surging as cases rise nationwide and the Delta variant looms.
The CDC announced Tuesday that even fully vaccinated individuals should mask up indoors if their community is experiencing substantial transmission—defined as areas with more than 50 cases per 100,000 people. Travis County is sitting at an average of 94.59 cases per 100,000 over the past seven days, falling into the highest risk category, according to the CDC.
#DeltaVariant surging in U.S. New data show Delta much more contagious than previous versions of #COVID19. Unvaccinated people: get vaccinated & mask until you do. Everyone in areas of substantial/high transmission should wear a mask, even if vaccinated. https://t.co/tt49zOEC8N
— CDC (@CDCgov) July 27, 2021
After two COVID-19 recommendation stage jumps in the last two weeks, from Stage 2 to Stage 4, Austin-area cases are the highest they have been since February. The seven-day average for cases is on an upward trend, reaching 226 on Tuesday.
The CDC is also recommending that all students K-12 wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. A May executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott prohibits schools from requiring masks, regardless of vaccination status. Austin ISD is "strongly" encouraging students to wear masks.
Although vaccinated individuals are still protected against the most severe symptoms of the variant, infections are spreading rapidly and now make up 83% of confirmed cases in the U.S. At least a dozen cases of the delta variant have been confirmed in the Austin area, though there are likely more since testing for it is limited.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that hospital admissions are "almost exclusively" coming from people who are unvaccinated but those who are vaccinated can still catch and spread the virus.
"Unlike the alpha variant that we had back in May, where we didn't believe that if you were vaccinated you could transmit further, this is different now with the Delta variant," Walensky said. "That leads us to believe that the breakthrough infections, rare that they are, have the potential to pool and transmit at the same with the same capacity as an unvaccinated person."
Research suggests those who become infected carry 1,000 times more of the virus than other variants and could stay contagious for longer.The announcement comes on the heels of the Biden administration ramping up cautionary measures in the face of the Delta variant. Just last week, the CDC said it had no plans to change its May guidance of vaccinated not having to wear masks unless there was a significant change in the data. Officials met on Sunday night to review new evidence, according to reports.
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The Moody Center, a $338 million, 530,000-square-foot multipurpose arena at the University of Texas at Austin, celebrated its topping out on Tuesday.
With the final beam placed, the arena's steel-frame structural phase—which involved more than 5.3 million pounds of steel—is complete.
"This past year has been full of unprecedented events, not to mention weather challenges, and yet the women and men working on this project continue to deliver," Moody Center General Manager and Senior Vice President Jeff Nickler said in a press release.
To celebrate the topping out Oak View Group, the development and investment firm behind the Moody Center will affix a tree to the final beam in keeping with the time-honored tradition.
The practice dates back to ancient Scandinavian religious rites, which involved placing a tree atop new buildings to appease tree-dwelling spirits displaced during the construction process, according to the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers in Washington D.C.
After the steel-frame structure phase, the development will move on to enclosing and finishing the interior of the Moody Center.
The arena is set to open next April and already has some major acts scheduled for its inaugural year, including The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, John Mayer and The Killers. It will replace the 43-year-old Frank C. Erwin Jr. Center and serve as the home of UT's men's and women's basketball games, among other sports and community events.
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