Can Austin FC Become the Top MLS Team in Texas?

By Ben Morris in Soccer
| March 15, 2021 6:28 am PDT
Will Austin FC Become the Top Soccer Team in Texas?

In less than a month’s time, Major League Soccer’s third Texas-based club will begin play as expansion team Austin FC joins the league.

Since 2006, the Texas Derby has been waged between FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo, with the two rivals enjoying a great deal of success over the years. In 2021, Austin will take the total number of MLS franchises in the Lone Star State to three.

With two MLS Cups, one Supporters’ Shield, and three US Open Cups between them, it’s safe to say that Dallas and Houston are among the most established teams in Major League Soccer. But can Austin FC become the best soccer club in Texas?

It is no secret that the newcomers have plenty of catching up to do. But many believe that Austin is set to make a big impact on MLS – and becoming the greatest soccer team in Texas could be a realistic target.

Below, I cover all things Austin FC, analyze the history of the other Texas teams in MLS, and decide whether Austin FC can become the best soccer club in Texas.

What Makes Austin FC Stand Out From the Crowd?

Having only been founded in January 2019, you don’t need me to tell you that Austin FC hasn’t been around for very long. However, it already feels as though Texas’ newest MLS franchise possesses something special.

We all know that Dallas and Houston have been mainstays in Major League Soccer for a long time, but there is definitely something different about Austin.

The team may not have kicked a ball in MLS, yet there is already an evident buzz around the club. From notable investing partners such as actor Matthew McConaughey to high-profile executive staff like sporting director Claudio Renya, Austin seems well equipped to thrive in MLS.

Not only is Austin FC the first professional soccer club in the city, but it also boasts the status of being the city’s only top-flight pro sports team. That can only be a good thing for the club.

Better still, Austin’s marketing has really stood out in the lead-up to the franchise’s maiden MLS campaign. The club’s presence in the community has enabled a large fan base to develop, giving the team plenty of support early on.

With a brand-new, state-of-the-art stadium situated just three miles from the city’s metro area, Austin FC is undoubtedly the sexiest soccer club in the Lone Star State.

The Q2 Stadium – which reportedly cost Two Oak Ventures around $240 million to build – is able to seat approximately 20,500 spectators, meaning that Austin FC could become one of the most-watched teams in Major League Soccer.

But what about the players? It’s all well and good being dynamic off the field, but the team needs to produce results, right?

Let’s take a look at Austin FC’s inaugural player roster for the 2021 MLS season.

A Look at Austin FC’s Inaugural Player Roster

Fans of Austin FC have been getting pumped about their side’s inaugural player roster over the past few months, with head coach Josh Wolff building an exciting squad.

Here is the 2021 Austin FC roster.

Goalkeepers

  • Brady Scott
  • Andrew Tarbell
  • Brad Stuver

Brady Scott was the first goalkeeper to sign with Austin. The ex-United States U20 shot-stopper joined from Nashville SC, having previously played for German club FC Koln.

However, former San Jose Earthquakes and Columbus Crew gloveman Andrew Tarbell and Brad Stuver – who also played for the Crew – are likely to battle it out for the number one spot.

Defenders

  • Jhohan Romana
  • Matt Besler
  • Julio Cascante
  • Freddy Kleeman
  • Ben Sweat
  • Nick Lima
  • Zan Kolmanic

Austin has acquired a number of defenders with bags of MLS experience, bringing in Julio Cascante, Ben Sweat, and Nick Lima. Left-back Zan Kolmanic is on loan from Slovenian side Maribor, while Jhohan Romana is a highly-rated Colombian center-back.

But Matt Besler is undoubtedly Austin’s biggest defensive coup. The 34-year-old has over 300 appearances for Sporting Kansas City under his belt, as well as 47 USMNT caps.

Midfielders

  • Alexander Ring
  • Ulises Segura
  • Diego Fagundez
  • Daniel Pereira
  • Hector Jimenez
  • Jared Stroud
  • Sebastian Berhalter
  • Tomas Pochettino (DP)

Austin FC’s midfield options are seriously exciting – there is no denying that. Tomas Pochettino has been signed as a Designated Player, while Alexander Ring needs no introduction.

Jarred Stroud racked up 22 goals and 20 assists in 64 USL Championship outings before joining the Red Bulls last year. Needless to say, Austin supporters will be stoked that the club managed to scoop Stroud in the MLS Expansion Draft.

Forwards

  • Danny Hoesen
  • Cecilio Dominguez (DP)
  • Rodney Redes
  • Jon Gallagher
  • Kekuta Manneh
  • Aaron Schoenfeld

Paraguay international Cecilio Dominguez was signed to a Designated Player contract, giving Wolff a tasty attacking option, while Danny Hoesen was Austin’s first Expansion Draft pick.

Rodney Redes is another Paraguayan that Austian fans are eager to see, with fellow forwards like Danny Hoesen, Jon Gallagher, and Aaron Schoenfeld all expected to add quality to the team.

What Have the Other Texas Teams Achieved in MLS?

Before Austin FC can even think about becoming the best Texas soccer club in MLS, the newcomers must begin to mirror the achievements of the other two teams in the state – FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo.

Let’s take a look at what Dallas and Houston have achieved in Major League Soccer over the years.

Analyzing FC Dallas’ History

Dallas has been a force in Major League Soccer right from the very beginning.

Entering the league as the “Dallas Burn” before adopting their current name – FC Dallas – in 2004, the franchise was one of the ten original teams to participate in the inaugural MLS season back in 1996.

Since then, the Toros have established themselves as one of the most consistent teams in the country.

Dallas has only failed to qualify for the playoffs in seven of the 25 MLS seasons to date, securing the Supporters’ Shield in 2016. In fact, only one team has a better overall regular-season record in MLS history.

BEST ALL-TIME REGULAR-SEASON RECORDS IN MLS
Team Games Wins Draws Losses Points Per Game
LA Galaxy 764 344 159 261 1.530
FC Dallas 764 318 159 287 1.418
New York Red Bulls 764 316 153 295 1.412

Although FC Dallas has never been able to win the MLS Cup, the team did reach the final in 2010. On top of that, the Toros have two US Open Cups to complement their Supporters’ Shield triumph.

Below is a list of FC Dallas’ honors.

  • MLS Cup – Runner-up (2010)
  • Supporters’ Shield – Winner (2016), Runner-up (2006, 2015)
  • US Open Cup – Winner (1997, 2016), Runner-up (2005, 2007)

Dallas’ standout 2016 campaign saw the club finish atop the Western Conference, clinch the Supporters’ Shield, and win the Open Cup all in the same year. But since then, the team has struggled to replicate those kinds of achievements.

Following a thirteenth-place finish in the overall standings in 2017, Dallas was knockout out of the playoffs in the first round in 2018 and 2019 before ending the 2020 campaign in eleventh place overall.

Head coach Luchi Gonzalez has led the team in each of the past two seasons, although it’s fair to say that his time at Toyota Stadium hasn’t been overly successful so far.

LUCHI GONZALEZ’S RECORD AS FC DALLAS HEAD COACH
Games Wins Draws Losses Win %
61 23 17 21 37.70%

If FC Dallas’ recent decline continues, Austin FC could overtake their rival in the pecking order of Texas MLS teams in the coming years.

Of course, Austin has a lot of catching up to do, especially in terms of games played. But when it comes to the MLS Cup, Dallas still hasn’t managed to win Major League Soccer’s top prize, so Austin stands a genuine chance of achieving that feat before one of the other Texas clubs in MLS.

Assessing Houston Dynamo’s Past

The Dynamo took the total number of Texas MLS teams to two when they joined the league back in 2006 – and the Houston franchise enjoyed instant success.

Remarkably, Houston won the MLS Cup at the very first time of asking before going on to secure back-to-back triumphs in 2007.

Having finished second in the Western Conference in each of the previous two seasons, the Dynamo ended the 2008 campaign atop the West, finishing as the Supporters’ Shield runner-up that year.

Houston reached a further two MLS Cup finals in 2011 and 2012, although the Galaxy got the better of the Texans on both occasions.

HOUSTON DYNAMO’S GLORY YEARS (2006 – 2012)
Season Western Conference Playoffs
2006 2nd W
2007 2nd W
2008 1st QF
2009 2nd SF
2010 7th DNQ
2011 2nd RU
2012 5th RU
  • W = Winner
  • RU = Runner-up
  • SF = Semi-finals
  • QF = Quarter-finals
  • DNQ = Did not qualify

Unfortunately, Houston hasn’t had much to shout about since the glory days. The club claimed an Open Cup triumph in 2018, but in terms of MLS, the Dynamo have failed to qualify for the playoffs in six of the past seven seasons.

In 2019, Houston finished third from the bottom in the Western Conference standings. But in 2020, things got even worse. The Dynamo ended the 2020 campaign rock bottom of the West, with only FC Cincinnati below them in the overall table.

Yes, Austin will need to win plenty of silverware before the new franchise can even be talked about as the most successful Texas team in Major League Soccer.

However, given that Houston is currently viewed as one of the weakest teams in the league, it feels like Austin has been given somewhat of a head start in the race to become the best soccer club in Texas.

Can Austin FC Eclipse the Other Texas Teams in MLS?

As things stand, Austin FC hasn’t even played a minute of Major League Soccer.

On the flip side, FC Dallas is about to enter the 26th consecutive MLS season, while Houston Dynamo already has 15 campaigns in the locker. So, the newcomers clearly have a long way to go.

But if the early signs are anything to go by, there is no reason why Austin FC can’t become the most successful soccer team in Texas.

The franchise has laid all the right foundations for a bright future. Yes, on-field performances will obviously dictate how far the club can go. But in the lead-up to the 2021 MLS season, Austin has done everything right.

Expansion teams have enjoyed varied success in recent years. FC Cincinnati has famously struggled to adapt to the demands of Major League Soccer, yet on the other hand, Nashville SC made it all the way to the Conference Semifinals in 2020.

If the latest expansion side can carry their off-field success onto the field and continue to grow as a club in the coming years, we could see Austin FC overtaking FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo as the top soccer club in Texas.

At the end of the day, Austin would have to endure a torrid time to be viewed as one of the worst teams in MLS history.

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