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Austin FC to play franchise-opening match versus LAFC; home opener slated for June 19

Mike Craven
Austin American-Statesman
Austin FC defender Julio Cascante warms up before a team preseason training session at St. Edward's University. The club will open up its 2021 season with a match at Los Angeles FC on April 17.

Austin FC's first-ever match will be April 17 against Los Angeles Football Club at the Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park, and its first home match will come June 19 at Q2 Stadium against the San Jose Earthquakes.

Major League Soccer and Austin FC officials announced the dates on Wednesday.

The LAFC match will be broadcast nationally on Fox and Fox Deportes, kicking off at 4:30 p.m. The home opener will be nationally televised on UniMas and TUDN starting at 8 p.m. Local broadcast details for either match were not released.

Austin FC will play 34 regular-season MLS matches. Additional information on Austin FC’s complete regular season schedule, preseason and other matches will be announced later.

“It's a great opening game for us,” Austin FC coach Josh Wolff said. “I'm sure our fans are going to be excited. I know our players are excited, and I'm certainly excited by the news. We look forward to it, and it is obviously going to provide a nice test for us, but we're excited about it.”

LAFC is led by Bob Bradley, who coached Wolff during his playing career. 

“He gave me great guidance and certainly gave me lasting memories and lasting impressions of what the game is about and what team is about,” Wolff said. “For me, he is one of the best coaches, if not the best coach, in U.S. history.”

Austin FC not only starts the season on the road against the MLS Cup favorites, but the club won’t play a home game until mid-June, a challenge not lost on Wolff and the team. 

“We're going to be on the road a good bit, and that’s going to be a challenge,” Wolff said. “But going on the road, we expect to go and compete to get points and still maintain the way that we want to play, and we'll evaluate that week by week.”

Not hosting games until June is a double-edged sword for the club. It presents a tough challenge for the team, but it provides an opportunity for the front office to manage logistics of stadium capacity during the current pandemic climate. 

“I believe we’re in a position to be patient and make observations within our league and within our state,” Austin FC president Andy Loughnane said. “We’ll get to watch what the Houston Dynamo and Dallas FC do with their capacity, and we’ll get to see how the MLB teams do as well. Those are opportunities to observe and evaluate.” 

The Texas Rangers announced Wednesday that they will impose no restrictions on attendance at Globe Life Field for the home opener. The second-year ballpark intends to hold 40,000 strong April 5 against Toronto, but will create distanced-seating sections after the opener. 

The club believes Q2 Stadium is on pace to finish on time in late March or early April despite the challenges that surfaced during the pandemic and recent winter storm that cost many Texans power and water for upward of a week.

A few loose ends exist out of club control, such as stoplights near the stadium and some road construction on surrounding private property, but Loughnane and the ownership group seemed confident for the June 19 home debut, even if no firm percentage can be placed on potential capacity. 

“We hope to lay out a plan for the public approximately four weeks before the first home game,” Loughnane said. “We plan to have a few smaller events before that game to work in the equipment and staff so that we can be a fully functional stadium for a big event like an MLS game.”

Notes: Austin FC is looking to hire multiple matchday positions. These roles will serve fans at Q2 Stadium once home games, and any other events hosted, begin this summer. Roles include usher, ambassador, attendants and ticket taker with entry level and supervisory roles available. Visit austinfc.com for details.  

LAFC is the early favorite to win the MLS Cup, according to BetMGM odds for the upcoming season. Head coach Bob Bradley’s squad is +500 to win the MLS Cup. The Seattle Sounders (+800) and Columbus Crew SC (+900) are right behind. Seattle and Columbus faced off in the 2020 MLS Cup with the Crew winning 3-0 to secure the title. 

Austin FC, the 27th franchise in MLS, is tied for the 21st-best odds, at +6600. The only clubs with less of a chance at winning the league title are FC Cincinnati, D.C. United and Houston Dynamo FC, all at +10,000. FC Dallas is +3300.