Since 2006, the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas have had one of the more lively derbies in MLS, with the two Texas teams annually battling for playoff position, bragging rights and a Civil War-era cannon named El Capitan.
Earlier this month, Austin FC was officially welcomed to MLS, leading fans in Texas to ponder whether a Cascadia-style three-team rivalry might emerge in the Lone Star State once the expansion side takes the field in 2021.
“I’m excited just because it adds to what we have going on in the state,” says Samuel Purcell, president of Dynamo supporters’ group Texian Army. “I expect Austin added to the mix to make it more gritty and tense and fun for the supporters in all of the cities.”
Though he sees Austin initially in a “baby brother” role with the other two Texas teams, he notes that they’ll have “a great energy,” and expects good narratives to unfold over time.
“It’s good to have a closer rival than we have right now in FC Dallas,” added longtime Texian Army leader James Hromadka. “It takes us about five hours to get to Frisco from Houston, and that’s our only reasonable option right now to get a good group to travel. Austin brings us another option for a road trip.”
He added a sentiment familiar to many Texans craving good food and good nightlife: “It’s another excuse to go to Austin.”
Dynamo superfan Francisco Rios loves the University of Texas Longhorns, which are based in Austin, and is a fan of Houston’s pro teams.
“There is a so much passion from the people of Austin that they honestly deserve a proper pro team,” Rios said.
Not everyone from Houston’s hot on Austin, though.
“Having another rival that isn’t Frisco has us all salivating,” says El Batallon leader Manny Gutierrez. “In the end, though, they’re just another club from another overhyped town that we’d be elated to take three points from on a regular basis.”
Austin may have some ways to go, however, in drawing the ire of the two established MLS teams away from each other.
“Houston really hates Dallas, and they really hate us,” Hromadka said, noting that existing rivalries in football, baseball and basketball feed the tension between the cities that’s most definitely felt in soccer.
“From the moment I moved to Dallas-Fort Worth, you could feel the rivalry between Houston and Dallas,” adds Dallas Soccer Show co-host Dustin Nation. “Austin, however, has always been a fun place to hang out for a day or two and no one really hates it — unless you have cedar allergies.”
Some FC Dallas fans are excited for what Austin could add.
“I think it’s awesome to have three teams in Texas since it’s so large,” said former DBG member Jason Stevens, noting that Austin’s now joined other cities on his wish list for away trips.
Nation’s podcasting co-host Tristan Vick thinks Austin’s entry in the league will be a boon for player development.
“The I-35 corridor that runs through Texas contains some of the most athletics-friendly communities in the country," he says. "It follows that we should be seeing professionals developed out of these areas more frequently than we are. Austin FC will undoubtedly play a role in that process.”
Fans of the three clubs generally agree El Capitan should remain exclusively a Dallas vs. Houston trophy.
But fans from all the teams see the potential for a three-club, Cascadia-style competition, perhaps with the supporters groups having a role in tallying the annual winner and awarding a trophy once Austin FC starts play.
“Texas pride is a thing,” Nation asserts. “No doubt fans of all three teams will want to be the best in Texas.”