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Semifinal match: U.S. men's national soccer team battles Qatar this week at Austin's Q2 Stadium

Austin will see a national soccer team for the second time as Team USA takes on Qatar in the Gold Cup semifinals on Thursday. (USMNT/Twitter)

The highest-stakes match in Q2 Stadium history is coming on Thursday as the U.S. men's national team takes on Qatar for the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Austin FC's home base will soon have been host to both the men's and women's national teams less than two months after opening its doors; on June 16, the stadium's pitch was christened with the USWNT's 2-0 win over Nigeria.

Now, excitement is even more heightened as the men's team fights to steal North America's biggest soccer title from defending champs Mexico. But first, they'll need to host guest team Qatar, a surprise standout that has scored the most goals in the tournament so far.

For those who aren't updated on the Gold Cup, here's what to expect before Austin's biggest match to date takes Q2 Stadium.

What's happened at the Gold Cup so far

While the 16-team Gold Cup consists of 16 of the best national teams in North and Central America, CONCACAF has historically been a battle between the USA and Mexico.

The bitter rivals have flip-flopped between that championship slot for every tournament appearance since 2011, and they're both fighting for a spot in the finals in Las Vegas this weekend.

Mexico holds an advantage with 11 championship titles, while the U.S. has won six and holds the most runners-up titles with six second-place finishes.

Team USA is the only team in the tournament with an unbroken win streak after beating Haiti (1-0), Martinique (6-1) and fellow semifinal contender Canada in the group stage. The team then took down Jamaica 1-0 in the quarterfinals to earn a semifinal spot at Q2.

Meanwhile, Qatar remains undefeated but tied 3-3 to Panama in the group stages alongside victories against Grenada (4-0), Honduras (2-0), and El Salvador (3-2.) Mexico is also undefeated but kicked off the tournament with a scoreless draw against Trinidad, while Canada's sole loss was to Team USA.

While the U.S. vs. Qatar match takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Mexico and Canada will duke it out just over two hours later at Houston's NRG Stadium. The winner of each match will be granted a ticket to the finals in Las Vegas at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

What to expect

Qatar's 12 Gold Cup goals give the air of expertise, but the Qatar national team was hardly on the global radar just five years ago. The team has never reached World Cup qualifications in over 40 years of independence even as they were named the hosts of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

With the World Cup—which grants automatic tournament berth to its hosts—just over a year away, the Gold Cup's lone outsiders are working for more than wins: they also want to gain global acclaim.

The club that had never made it up the ranks of their continent's Asia Cup was suddenly the unexpected winners of the tournament in 2019 after a 3-1 upset over Japan. The national team was then invited to the 2019 Copa America but fell out of the group stages with a 0-1-2 record.

The Gold Cup's lone invitees are blowing away the competition with back-to-back goalscoring and an attacking mindset, but they have yet to play a team of USA's caliber in the tournament.

Team USA is ranked 20th globally and has won 10 of this year's 11 matches, tied for a year-best record. The club survived a grueling physical 1-0 win vs. Jamaica to qualify for the semifinals and are sporting some of MLS's best in the lineup, including LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson and young Sporting KC midfielder Gianluca Busio.

The U.S. team hasn't put as many points on the board (9) but has played some of the best in the tournament, including Canada and Haiti.

Lletget said in a press conference Tuesday that the team has been watching Qatar's success and thinks that the next match will be a change of pace for the team.

I think this game coming up is going to be very different from all the rest," Lletget said. "That's one thing you get in CONCACAF, just different styles."

What comes next

If the U.S. wins, as they are favored to, they'll likely face off against Mexico for yet another rivalry match.

Mexico last won the tournament in 2019 and is looking for another championship win. In the two teams' last faceoff in June, the team's formidable rivalry was made evident as punches were thrown, Austin FC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna's son Gio was hit in the face with a flying object by an angry Mexico fan and players on each side exchanged rough elbows and tackles as the U.S. took the match 3-2 to win the match.

Even if they don't face off, the USMNT will look for a winning streak against their border rivals in a World Cup qualifier vs Mexico in Cincinnati on Nov. 12.

And if you weren't able to score tickets for this week's international Q2 match, no need to fear: the stadium recently announced that it would be hosts on the international stage once again as Team USA takes on Jamaica for a World Cup qualifier on Oct. 7.

Starting in September, the national team will begin a 14-match stretch of World Cup qualifying matches against CONCACAF clubs, starting with a match at El Salvador on Sept. 2.

How to watch

For those who nabbed a Q2 Stadium ticket this Thursday, here's a full matchday guide.

If not, there's plenty of places to grab a friend and a beer and watch Team USA play.

Here's a few watch parties we've found:

  • Haymaker Austin, the official HQ of US national soccer fan club American Outlaws, is sure to have plenty of fans in red, white and blue come matchday. The bar is also hosting a night before welcome party at 6 p.m. on Wednesday to celebrate the team's arrival in Austin. Find out more here.
  • Circle Brewing, which hosts Austin FC fan club Austin Anthem every matchday, is hosting both a pregame and watch party for the match. Gates open at 2 p.m. and continue through the match. Find out more here.
  • Hopsquad Brewing, located just next to Circle Brewing, is a soccer hub and favorite of Austin FC fan club Los Verdes. No watch party has been announced, but the bar is sure to air the game and foster a party atmosphere come matchday.


Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation

🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway