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City vs. city: Austin FC to face San Antonio FC in Central Texas showdown

(Laura Figi)

Fresh off its 3-2 win in Washington, D.C., Austin FC will see a much closer foe this week. The team is preparing for an I-35 battle with its neighbors, San Antonio FC, in the U.S. Open Cup this Wednesday at San Antonio's Toyota Stadium.

The Lamar Hunt Open Cup, which is the longest-running soccer tournament in the United States, is a single-elimination tournament that pits teams in both professional and amateur leagues against one another.

It's the first tournament of its kind since 2019—and by the luck of the draw, Austin is facing its rival city in more ways than one on Wednesday.

A spurned San Antonio

From tacos to sports teams, it's no secret that Austin and San Antonio have bickered over their reputation as Central Texas hubs since before South Congress was, well, South Congress.

And San Antonio and Austin were pitted against each other once again in Major League Soccer's search for a new soccer club.

According to a Texas Standard article, in 2015 Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff (aptly named, considering Austin FC's future head coach Josh Wolff) confidently announced the city and county's $19 million deal to buy Toyota Field and convert it to an MLS stadium.

“It will be a great benefit to all the citizens of our community as we move forward to bring Major League Soccer to San Antonio,” Wolff said.

Seven years later, and the stadium isn't home to an MLS franchise. Instead, that future team will enter Toyota Stadium as Austin FC, and San Antonio is still feeling like it got the short end of the deal.

Austin's first major league sports team has been the fruitful reward of a long-fought battle, and it's now enjoyed by thousands of fans across the city. But Austin never filed for an application to the league, and San Antonio did.

“Despite that, the league kept showing up here, and kept having conversations about their interest in being here,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said.

While it's hard to propose that Austin didn't deserve a professional sports team, or that Austin's ardent supporters shouldn't be wearing their team's Verde and Black, a San Antonio's spurned MLS deal may add an extra element of passion to the Open Cup match.

Still, many Central Texas futbol fans can agree that another MLS team would be welcomed by San Antonians and Austinites alike.

On the pitch

While this match won't count toward Austin's run for the playoffs, it will give bragging rights to whichever team is deemed the best in Central Texas.

As the Major League Soccer club in the equation, Austin FC has the advantage over San Antonio FC, which plays for the lower-division United Soccer League. The Verde and Black has found a fresh face after its first season, scoring three goals in ten minutes for a momentous D.C. United road win Saturday. Austin is currently second in the MLS West and has lost just one match this season.

Hot off of three straight wins, the near-undefeated San Antonio is currently third in the USL West and features a familiar face in former Austin FC forward (and former Austin resident) Kekuta Manneh.

Both clubs look to be in top form as they enter the third round of the Lamar U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday. The winner of the Interstate battle will enter the Round of 32 starting May 10-11 and join the winners of other Texas battles including FC Dallas vs. FC Tulsa and Houston Dynamo vs. Rio Grande Valley FC.

Tickets and tournament details

Want to attend the match? Tickets are going for as low as $24 for the match, which will kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Toyota Stadium. Get those tickets here. If you can't make it in person, the match can be streamed live on ESPN+.

If Austin FC advances, it will continue on its journey to win the 2022 U.S. Open Cup. The stakes are higher than just a trophy: winners will also receive $300,000 in prize money, a berth into the continent-wide 2023 Concacaf Champions League.


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