If you hadn’t heard, FC Dallas has a new competitor in Major League Soccer and in Texas - Austin FC.
That’s right. Houston is no longer the sole annoying family member from another part of the state. Now there are two of them.
Austin FC isn’t expected to dominate out of the gates, though they are putting together a decent inaugural roster with a mix of veterans, promising internationals, and youth. They have a nice shiny new stadium to entice the fans with. Their head coach, Josh Wolff, is a veteran of the league and has plenty of experience in a coaching capacity. 2021 should be a solid introductory year for them, even if they don’t crack the playoffs.
And let’s be real - FC Dallas did not impress with the way they handled newcomers Nashville FC last year. Anything is possible.
Houston and FC Dallas have enjoyed the Texas Derby for many years, but with Austin FC in the mix, we are destined for a realignment of rivalries and energy.
For starters, Austin FC doesn’t really belong in the Texas Derby. According to most prominent Texas politicians, Austin isn’t actually a part of Texas anyway.
So this raises the possibilities for a variety of names to call the soon-to-be tense set of games between the squads.
Here are a few suggestions.
The Brazos Cup
I’ll lead with my favorite and my own preferred title for the rivalry.
The Brazos Cup refers of course to the Brazos River, the 1200 mile long river that Dallas and Austin have in common, a long, snaking flow of water that mirrors the long and twisting history the two franchises are about to share. According to Wikipedia, “it is sometimes used to mark the boundary between East Texas and West Texas.” The seasonal series might come to echo the legacy of the Red River Shootout - two regional powers staking their claim over recruiting and bragging rights.
Nodding to the history of Spanish explorers traversing this landscape millennia ago, the Brazos Cup will be a ceremonial goblet made out of Spanish silver, mined directly from Spain as a symbolic reversal of colonial history and etched with Comanche words to honor the original caretakers of the land.
On a more serious note, the Brazos River is known for its low quality. Both teams could do something really special with an agreement for each team to contribute to an effort to clean up and care for the river on a regular basis as part of their rivalry.
Ultimately, the Brazos Cup makes a lot of sense and is just fun to say too.
The Barbecue Cup
Austin and Dallas are both epicenters of good smoked meats of various sorts.
Houston doesn’t really belong since barbecue is unheard of that far south. A Houston native wouldn’t know barbecue if it walked in their house and sat on their couch.
And while other cities offer some compelling barbecue options, Texas is the real deal.
FC Dallas has woven a celebration of barbecue into their history. In particular, the squad made cookouts a tradition for team building and chemistry under Coach Oscar Pareja. Legendary FC Dallas striker Eric Hassli took to the local cuisine like fish to water after his move from Vancouver in 2013, so much so that he was cut ahead of the 2014 season. (I don’t blame him though - it’s good stuff.)
Austin is also known for a strong grilling and smoking tradition. Perhaps it’s time for both teams to make the competition official. The winner of the seasonal rivalry would take home a giant plastic bottle of barbecue sauce. Like El Capitan, the giant bottle would be squeezed after each goal scored, blasting barbecue sauce over joyous fans.
The I-35 Clash
The other major thoroughfare that FC Dallas and Austin FC share is that great stretch of interstate bliss that is I-35. Heck, right now, even as I am writing this at 8:25 PM Central Standard Time, there are at least two work zones and two crashes between the two cities, reminders that traffic is woven into the fabric of Texas existence. That presents a lot of rich possibilities for fans to caravan between their respective urban centers, enjoying construction, fender benders, rest stops, gas stations, and adult book stores.
Both teams could pledge to do their part to maintain stretches of the interstate as part of the rivalry, encouraging safe driving. Ryan Hollingshead already has an experience of what it means to be a good neighbor for struggling motorists that is worth being celebrated as part of this rivalry. Maybe Matthew McConaughey can get Lincoln to sponsor the whole thing?
The winner of the annual competition would get a giant golden key to a giant golden car, located on some scorched lot along the I-35 stretch.
The Switch Cup
Now this one is a little bit out there, so stay with me.
If you haven’t noticed, FC Dallas and Austin FC have this weird mirror thing going on with their names. So imagine this - the winner of the rivalry each year has to reverse their franchise name.
If FC Dallas wins, Austin FC becomes FC Austin the next year.
If Austin FC wins, FC Dallas becomes Dallas FC next year.
Weird but kind of compelling, right?
What do you think we should call the Austin-Dallas rivalry in 2021 and beyond?