AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin FC is set to embark on its journey in Major League Soccer, representing as the city’s first professional franchise. The 27th MLS franchise will debut against Los Angeles FC Saturday at 5 p.m. on FOX, the favorites to hoist the MLS Cup for the 2021 season.
Every team enters the season with a goal of winning the MLS Cup. The league will be awarding its 26th MLS Cup this season. However, the odds are stacked against a franchise winning the championship in its first season, but it has happened in MLS before.
Aside from the first season when, obviously, every team was in its debut year, the Chicago Fire is the only team to win the title in its inaugural season, which happened in 1998.
Austin FC will face massive challenges this season as it grows roots in the local community and attempts to find the formula for winning soccer.
As minority owner and Austin FC’s Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey told KXAN this week, it’s going to be a “100-year war.” Success won’t happen overnight, but the small gains can be found with strong supporters, a state-of-the-art stadium and smart leadership.
There are some talented pieces on Austin FC’s roster — mostly in the midfield.
3 players to know on Austin FC’s roster
Tomas Pochettino – midfield
Pochettino makes up half of Austin FC’s designated player core. The 25-year-old comes to Austin from Argentina’s Club Atletico Talleres. The Argentine scored seven goals in 62 appearances during his time with his home country club. This will be his first appearance in MLS.
During the preseason with Austin FC, Pochettino has shown an ability to be lethal with free kicks, scoring two goals during the La Copita preseason tournament.
Alex Ring – midfield
The Finnish midfielder was named Austin FC’s first-ever captain this week, proving his ability to lead from the start. Ring is a 2018 MLS all-star, playing with NYCFC. The 30-year-old has 119 starts in four seasons of MLS. He led NYCFC in minutes during the 2020 season.
Ring had 10 goals and 13 assists with NYCFC.
Cecilio Dominguez – forward
Dominguez became the first big piece for Austin FC as the franchise’s first designated player. He signed with the local club in August 2020. The Paraguayan forward is here to make plays. Whether that’s setting the table for other forwards or scoring goals, Dominguez is the focal point.
The 26-year-old Paraguayan is making his debut in MLS this season. Dominguez was signed from Argentina’s Club Atlético Independiente. During his two seasons with the Argentinian club, Dominguez scored eight goals in 42 league and cup appearances.
Who are the best MLS teams?
Austin FC will get a good look at the mountaintop of MLS competition this weekend. Los Angeles FC is expected to win the Western Conference and MLS Cup this season. Austin FC will be fighting for positioning against the 12 other Western Conference teams.
Seven teams each from the Western and Eastern Conference make the postseason. The top team in each conference earns a first round bye.
Seattle Sounders FC are another title contender. The Sounders lost the MLS Cup to the Columbus Crew in 2020 and won the championship in 2019. Seattle are the model for consistent success, appearing in four of the last five MLS Cup matches and winning twice. The Sounders will host Austin FC on May 29.
The preseason predictions from national experts expect Austin FC to be pushing for a playoff spot or right on the outside of the Western playoff spots.
There will be a battle for those final playoff spots between Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids and Austin FC.
Columbus Crew SC is the defending champion, winning the MLS Cup over Seattle in December 2020. Anthony Precourt, the CEO of the Austin FC’s ownership group, previously led the Crew SC ownership group before starting a franchise in Austin.
All eyes will be on that contest when the defending league champions come to Austin June 27.
CW Austin TV home for regional coverage of Austin FC
The CW Austin, KNVA, will be the television home for Austin FC soccer for both the 2021 and 2022 seasons. The channel will air a majority of Austin FC’s regional telecasts for the next two years.
The inaugural Austin FC home game on June 19 will air on TUDN. The season opener on April 17 will air on FOX network television.
Here’s how to watch Austin FC games this season.
This article originally appeared on KXAN Austin