The capital city is finally host to its first-ever major professional sports league, and it comes in unique Austin fashion. The Matthew McConaughey-backed Austin FC will begin its first-ever season with the MLS in April, complete with signature Verde uniforms, an international roster and a brand new stadium.
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The team has already sold out season tickets and excited the city, but if you're unfamiliar with the biggest sports news to ever hit Austin, here's everything you need to know before kickoff on April 17.
Major League Soccer is America's premier soccer league with 27 teams in the US and Canada. In 15 years, the league has expanded 100%, from 12 to 24 teams as of 2019. Even with the pandemic clipping its wings, the MLS managed to produce new teams including Inter Miami CF, Nashville SC and Austin FC itself, with two other prospects on the way.
Once thought of as a "retirement league" for international stars such as David Beckham, the MLS is quickly opening itself up to a global market of promising new and seasoned athletes. This is evident in the Austin FC roster, where the club has scouted players from Paraguay and Argentina and four players are 21 and under.
As the newest expansion team, Austin FC will be the third club in Texas and the latest addition to an ever-expanding league.
Austin FC joined the ranks back in 2018 and quickly gained majority ownership by Anthony Precourt. Head Coach Josh Wolff was appointed in the summer of 2019, and the ball quickly got rolling as founding sponsorships were made. In July of 2020, 20-year-old Paraguayan forward Rodney Redes was named the club's first-ever signee, and 21 more players have followed to date. Over two years of planning have led up to the 2021 season, and coaches, players and fans alike are ready to get their team out on the pitch.
Being a new team has its perks. That's how Austin FC landed the first overall draft pick at their first-ever MLS SuperDraft, making midfielder Daniel Pereira their No. 1 choice. At 21, Pereira may have a ways to go before becoming a team starter but could come out hot and make a name for himself early. Either way, he's got potential at becoming a big name for the team.
The league is becoming more global, and Austin FC has followed suit by scouting around the world. Most recently, the team scooped Slovenian superstar Žan Kolmanič, who plays for the nation's 15-time national champions NK Maribor. Although the reported $1.8 million contract hasn't been confirmed by the club, other top-dollar international signees have.
Perhaps one of the most exciting picks for Austin FC is Argentinian attacking midfielder Tomás Pochettino. The club signed on Pochettino as their second Designated Player for a reported $2.5 million and is likely to put him in the starting No. 10 position.
Before Pochettino, the club signed Paraguayan forward Cecilio Domínguez as their first-ever Designated Player in August 2020. Domínguez, who has scored 73 goals and made 288 Club appearances in his career, transferred from Club Atlético Independiente in Paraguay.
Austin FC has 23 current rostered players and two unsigned draft picks from the MLS SuperDraft, defender Aedan Stanley and midfielder Daniel Steedman, who will be practicing with the team during preseason. The team can have up to 30 players on their roster per MLS rules, and they'll likely still be looking for some final picks into the summer.
It's only natural that the city's first-ever professional sports team gets a brand new stadium.
Austin FC's new home comes in the form of the $260 million Q2 Stadium, which will be able to seat more than 20,000 fans. Dubbed "Austin's biggest backyard," the stadium is nestled on a 24-acre property in North Austin at 10414 McKalla Place and is predicted to be finished by late March or early April. Although the team won't play on their home turf until early June, fans can look forward to the prospect of a stadium complete with a merch store, a "beer hall" and food trucks in signature Austin fashion.
With a lush field and green-and-black seating, the stadium has brought an exciting splash of Verde to Austin.
Brands you'll see
Austin FC has landed dozens of both Austin-centric and nationally-recognized partners leading up to their first season. Here's a couple of noteworthy brands sponsoring the club:
- Q2: The Austin financial technology, or "fintech," company secured a multiyear naming rights sponsorship in January and will be featured as the namesake for Q2 Stadium.
- Yeti: Adorned in bold lettering on official Austin FC jerseys, the Austin-based cooler company landed a $4 million, multi-year jersey deal ahead of the 2021 season.
- St. David's Healthcare: St. David's is sponsoring the future home of Austin FC players and coaches, the St. David's Performance Center, which will serve as their practice and training facility. The center will hopefully be done in time for some preseason practice, but in the meantime, Austin FC is making camp at St. Edward's University and the Fairmont Austin, which is also a sponsorship partner.
- Austin Eastciders: The Austin-based company is now the "official cider" of the club and will have tailgate specials at its bar and tasting room.
- DoubleDave's Pizza: The buffet and delivery restaurant that started out in Austin, known best for its pizza rolls, will be the official pizza of Austin FC.
The team has also gained Texas grocer H-E-B, global clothing brand Adidas, Coca-Cola, Michelob Ultra and Austin sparkling water company Waterloo as their official partners.
Season tickets for the team's 2021 season have already sold out. However, for $50, fans can join the waitlist membership, where they will receive priority on season ticket matches, be eligible for up to six season tickets when they become available and have presale access to third-party events happening at Q2 Stadium.
With the waitlist membership, members will have a 24-hour exclusive window to purchase tickets leading up to each MLS regular season match. They'll also get an extra 10% off Austin FC items at MLSStore.com.
For those looking to watch in luxury, the club is allowing fans to deposit $1,000 ahead of time to secure hospitality suites at regular-season matches. The stadium's lounges range from 24-member private party rooms to access to the Porch Lounge, which will feature couches rather than stadium seats. If interested, email email@example.com to send your deposit.
The team partnered with SeatGeek back in 2019 to provide a mobile ticketing experience. Available tickets will be powered through the SeatGeek website or app, and fans will be able to scan into the stadium using their phones.
Regular season tickets have not been released. Click here to stay up to date on Austin FC tickets.
Where to watch
For those staying home to see the Verdes play, there's plenty of local and national stations to watch from. Thanks to a deal with parent company Nexstar, Austin FC games will be broadcast throughout Central Texas on the CW Austin, KXAN and KBVO. Spanish-language carriers will be announced in April, according to Austin FC President Andy Loughnane.
For fans out of the Hill Country, some MLS matches will be picked up by national providers including ESPN, FOX and Univision. The exact number hasn't been specified yet.
With the end of COVID on the horizon, some fans may want to go to the ultimate soccer viewing location: the classic neighborhood sports bar. Luckily, these bars and brands have already shown interest in repping their team.
Grab a beer, gather some friends and watch the Verdes play at these locations:
Austin Eastciders, 979 Springdale Road Ste. 130
The sponsor has said they will host various watch parties around the Austin metro, including at their own Collaboratory Tap Room. At the tasting room, $1 per pint sold will go to the charity branch of Austin FC, the 4ATX Foundation. These funds will go toward 4ATX's mission of closing the opportunity gap by helping out Austin's youth.
The official import beer of Austin FC will be hosting Away Game watch parties around the Austin metro as the season begins.
Lustre Pearl, 97 Rainey St.
In an Austin FC video series, Lustre Pearl owner Bridget Dunlap said she would be "super grateful for every viewing party, every before-and-after party" they can do to kick off Austin FC's season.
Crown & Anchor, 2911 San Jacinto Blvd
Crown & Anchor manager said on the same series that she hopes people will go out to the bar to watch upcoming games. The neighborhood pub has already established itself as a soccer watching destination after hosting watch parties for the World Cup and Women's World Cup.
Many watch parties and pub sponsors haven't been officially announced, so lots more are expected to come as the season approaches.
The Verde Van is stopping at @HotelVegasATX this weekend!— Austin FC (@AustinFC) February 27, 2021
Order online at https://t.co/FQVQIffR4q for pick up or purchase select items on site, including the latest ATXFC set! pic.twitter.com/6bLEW4B52T
Finally, while at games, viewing parties or even the living room, many fans may want to rep their local team's signature Verde colors. Merch for any occasion can be found here:
"Verde Store"- A one-stop shop for the widest selection of Austin FC merchandise will be located in the North Building of the Q2 Stadium.
mlssoccerstore.com- New threads including the recently-released "Legends" jersey and ATX line are all available at Austin FC's official merchandise site. From pickleball paddles to bumper stickers, the site includes all kinds of Verde-sponsored items.
Adidas- As Austin FC's official sponsor, Adidas has jerseys and jackets with the Austin FC crest available for sale.
As construction wraps up and fans wait for the season to start, the club is getting ready to begin its first-ever preseason on Monday, March 8, at Fairmont Austin and St. Edward's University. Optional training sessions began Monday, March 1 and will extend through March 7. Training will include six weeks of closed-door scrimmages and matches before the 2021 MLS season begins on Saturday, April 17.
The MLS kicks off their season April 17, but Austin FC hasn't released their official schedule yet. While Q2 Stadium is set to finish in time for their season start, the Verdes aren't predicted to use their home field until early June.
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Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on three charges—second- and third-degree murder as well as manslaughter—in the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man whose final moments were recorded by onlookers, sparking a global protest movement over police violence and racial injustice. He faces up to 40 years in prison.
Jurors deliberated for 10 hours over two days after an intense, three-week trial before reaching a verdict Tuesday afternoon, four days shy of the first anniversary of the Austin police killing of Mike Ramos, an unarmed, 42-year-old Black and Hispanic man whose name became a rallying cry—along with Floyd's—for Austin protestors, who marched en masse last summer, prompting some police reforms.
Austin Police Department Officer Christopher Taylor was charged with first-degree murder—an unprecedented charge in Travis County—in the case of Ramos' death on March 10. But Warren Burkley, community outreach director for the Austin Justice Coalition, was measured in his response to the Chauvin verdict. "It's highly visible accountability, so it will give people hope in the system," he told Austonia. "But it's just one innocent life taken. And even in this city, this happens regularly, and it doesn't make national news."
Local elected officials, community leaders and residents also responded to the news as APD officers spent their second day on tactical alert, prepared to respond to any protests or demonstrations, and City Council heard recommendations from a task force on how to reimagine public safety.
Chauvin guilty on three charges!!!!
— Chas Moore (@iGiveYouMoore) April 20, 2021
Full justice would mean that George Floyd was still with us. But today's guilty verdict represents a historic step toward justice and for his family. So important now for the Senate to approve the House George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.https://t.co/9zUOgZYg4L
— Lloyd Doggett (@RepLloydDoggett) April 20, 2021
For the first time we saw accountability in the courts for the murder of an innocent Black person.
Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on camera.
This prosecution is historic. People are feeling temporary relief. This is more than Justice, this is #AccountabilityforGeorgeFloyd. https://t.co/HlBqW7sScx
— Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (@EddieforTexas) April 20, 2021
Many of us have been afraid for days that Derek Chauvin would be found not guilty, despite what the video so clearly showed in broad daylight. The guilty verdict today provides important accountability, but it does not provide real justice. (1/5) ⬇️
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) April 20, 2021
George Floyd's murder led to national protests and calls for the enactment of policing and social justice reforms, including here in Austin. We have made a commitment here to holding police officers accountable and to implementing social justice and policing reforms.
— Mayor Adler | 😷wear a mask. (@MayorAdler) April 20, 2021
Derek Chauvin's conviction is only one step towards providing healing/justice for George Floyd's family + for our nation as a whole. It's up to us to honor Mr. Floyd + the many others lost to police violence by transforming public safety and making our communities safe for all. https://t.co/RVgQmcAf6I pic.twitter.com/hCHLibYjoy
— Council Member Alison Alter (@ALTERforATX) April 20, 2021
No person should be above the law. If you transgress the law you should be held accountability.
Derek Chauvin- GUILTY
— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) April 20, 2021
George Floyd's murder heightened the long-overdue national conversation on systemic racism. Derek Chauvin has been found guilty, but this is just one step on a long road towards racial equity. We must enact significant systemic changes in order to achieve justice.
— Every Texan (@EveryTxn) April 20, 2021
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Californians love Texas, and Austin—with its liberal politics, relatively affordable housing and job opportunities—is particularly adored. In fact, the Lone Star State was the main recipient of departing Californians in 2019, according to the latest available U.S. Census Bureau data.
But other states, including Florida, are seeing increased interest. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has made a name for himself on Twitter recruiting techies and hyping up his city, which has a lot in common with Austin—with the added benefit of a beach and sans the "Don't California my Texas" attitude.
California expats and industry experts say Austin remains the bigger draw for Californians, especially those in the tech sector, but warn that this advantage could shift to Miami if the city doesn't address the policy challenges that prompted the migration in the first place: housing affordability.
"If Austin doesn't accommodate this influx, I think all the talent will come to Miami," said Peter Yared, a tech entrepreneur who moved to Miami from San Francisco in September. "I think Miami's going to be the one that sucks it all up."
Both Texas and Florida promise business-friendly state tax policies, and their governors tout the relocations of companies such as Tesla and Oracle from California. But Darien Shanske, a law professor at the University of California Davis whose specialties include taxation, said this is a red herring because corporate taxes are based on where sales occur rather than headquarter locations.
This is not to say other state policies are irrelevant. "The area in which California regulatory policy has been, in my opinion, not a complete failure but problematic … is housing policy," Shanske said. Austin and Miami can offer "not cheap, just cheaper" housing than what is available in Silicon Valley. Plus, both cities are developing a critical mass of talent, which further draws Californians in. "If you're a software engineer, you want to live near other software engineers," he added.
But not every Californian is motivated to move. "San Francisco is a fantastic place to live if you can afford it," said Brandy Aven, a professor of entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. As a result, it's more common for what she called the labor—engineers, programmers and even company founders—to relocate to cities such as Austin and Miami than the monied venture capitalists. Burgeoning tech cities may find that they need to develop homegrown investor networks to support local ventures in the absence of Californian transplants, but she believes this is doable.
Paul O'Brien, CEO of the Austin-based MediaTech Ventures and a startup veteran, moved to Austin from California in 2009, during the Great Recession. "I'm a firm believer that the world has been seeking an alternative to Silicon Valley for a long time," he said, pointing to Austin as the natural heir for myriad reasons.
Austin has regional appeal as the epicenter of three of the country's largest cities—Houston, Dallas and San Antonio—and their respective industry niches. Tech entrepreneurs could cater to the local consumer goods industry or Houston's oil and gas sector. Plus the city has cultural appeal, thanks to the Red River District and South by Southwest, which made it attractive to job seekers. "The whole reason everyone moved to Silicon Valley is opportunity," O'Brien said. "The whole reason people are now looking beyond Silicon Valley to somewhere else is opportunity."
It's less clear what Miami's key industries are, O'Brien said, but the city offers other selling points, including the mayor's buy-in and "a tremendous depth of wealth" to support a technology and startup ecosystem.
Although Yared didn't consider moving to Austin, he is aware of its appeal to engineers, especially now that their hero, Elon Musk, has moved there, shunning California. "Austin has a lock on tech," he said, but Miami draws a different crowd, including financiers from New York. This parallel migration, coupled with the city's more outwardly pro-growth building policies, gives him hope that Miami could supplant Austin in the coming years. "In the end, communities get to choose what they want," he said.
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In the days after Austin FC's inaugural match against LAFC on Saturday, Head Coach Josh Wolff says he's watched the game "a number of times, to say the least."
In the match, Wolff and over 500,000 other viewers looked on as Austin FC took to the pitch for the first time, held their own in the first half against LAFC and eventually fell 2-0 to a team that's sometimes regarded as the best in the league.
Austin FC had the largest television audience of any soccer match in the U.S. over the weekend, surpassing even the USWNT. In a showcase of the club's dedicated fan base, dozens of Los Verdes fans were spotted in green and black around the stadium—even with the match limited to 20% capacity.
Salute the support. 👏
It's only the beginning for @AustinFC. pic.twitter.com/TduorqYr2y
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 18, 2021
While the team lost their first-ever match, they didn't make it as easy as some expected.
Wolff said that the team did relatively well offensively, holding possession for 48% of the match and keeping a solid passing game. Once they got to the box, however, Wolff said they could use some work on creating scoring opportunities.
"We saw a lot of good connections, good spacing (and) good speed of passing," Wolff said. "I think we can obviously have more presence centrally to have more numbers in between lines. I just want us to create more chances. There's a lot on both sides of the ball that we still need to work on."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Later on, however, the team gave up some goals and seemed to struggle with endurance. Wolff said the backline did "okay" and that the club, including young center back Jhohan Romana, are still getting conditioned to play a full match.
"It's a lot of information for a young player," Wolff said. "I think as he fatigues then the decision making, as with most players, becomes a little bit more cloudy and then thus the execution becomes cloudy."
An honor to represent this city and y'all. We're just getting started. 💚🖤 pic.twitter.com/tmOqCfbXvs
— Austin FC (@AustinFC) April 18, 2021
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal.
Going into the match, Stuver and fellow goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell were neck-and-neck, with both labeled potential starters. However, it was Stuver, who many thought signed as a backup, that wore the goalkeeper's jersey on the field for the first time.
"I think both Andrew and Brad did relatively well in preseason, but we decided with Brad just based on how we felt preseason went," Wolff said. "I thought he performed pretty well to be honest. I think he and Andrew are similar in some aspects... it's being mindful of where their strengths and weaknesses are."
Five starters made their MLS debut in the match, including midfielder Daniel Pereira and forward Rodney Redes. While Wolff said Pereira held his own in the match, he saw a weak spot in the team's right side, making it difficult for Redes to make offensive plays.
"For Pereira, I think it was a solid day for a young kid coming in his first MLS game against that opponent," Wolff said. "Obviously there's there's a different physicality to MLS and I think those are things that all these guys are going to acclimatize to.
Now, the club looks to put the ball in the back of the net for the first time as they head to Colorado. Austin FC will face the Colorado Rapids at 8 p.m.on Saturday. The match will stream on the Austin FC app and be broadcast on the CW Austin. Austonia will keep an eye out for potential weekend watch parties.
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