Yesterday Major League Soccer announced the 27th team to enter the league: Austin FC, giving Texas a third team and Austin’s first major league sports team. The addition of Austin FC to MLS was not without drama and contentious feelings, but thankfully it appears the agreement to sell the Crew and keep the Crew in Columbus has appeased both sides.
Here’s how this announcement could affect FC Dallas:
The El Capitan has been a long FCD-Houston tradition dating back to May 6, 2006, where the cannon is the prized trophy for winning the series between both these clubs. Now that Austin FC is a thing, does the new club get to be part of the Texas Derby? Will there be something new instead that’ll replace it? Or will the Texas Derby remain as it is, just between Dallas and Houston, and another kind of regional/state bragging rights be formed? Or, will the Texas Derby just remain as it is (between FCD and HOU) and nothing be formed to include Austin?
The addition of a 27th team adds an interesting layer to how the league will structure the conferences or if they’ll move to a three division kind of format. It’s been thrown out there that with the size of the league expanding at a rapid rate that the two conference system will not be sustainable, especially with the travel demands.
A three division system would work well to some degree, assuming (and it won’t) that the league stops at 27 teams, three divisions would entail a nice round number of nine teams each. But the league has hinted that MLS could expand up to 30 teams, and even then, going to three divisions would still make it just 10 teams each.
Splitting the league into smaller groups would be better for travel, traveling fans and for more intense rivalries to naturally form.
Speaking of travel, Houston has been the closest rival at about 240 miles from the Dallas city center to Houston’s city center. Austin will technically be the closest by distance, at 195 miles. Though not a lot in the grand scheme of things, it does introduce a new team that’s within drive-able distance for a day trip for the fans.
For the club itself, it means another bus trip and a stop at Buc-ee’s is in order. For fans, it means another relatively affordable game has popped up on the schedule to attend.
So technically Austin FC is not an expansion team. Anthony Precourt has stated this, and technically Austin and Precourt bypassed the expansion process. So does this mean there will be or won’t be an expansion draft where FCD could lose a few players?
With Nashville and Miami set to enter the league in 2020, Dallas could be set to lose players in the Expansion Draft in either 2020 or 2021. Though Dallas lost Roland Lamah in 2019 to FC Cincinnati, the Expansion Draft protection mechanism resets every two years, so because they didn’t lose anyone in 2018, FCD will be up again in 2020. So either way, Dallas will have some roster decisions heading their way in the near future.