Austin FC and its fans will have to wait three months for the inaugural kickoff at Q2 Stadium.
Major League Soccer on March 10 released its full schedule of home openers ahead of the 2021 season. Austin FC will host its first-ever home game at Q2 Stadium on June 19 with a match against the San Jose Earthquakes.
Austin FC will play its first game in team history April 17 when it takes on Los Angeles FC at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. The match will be held at 4:30 p.m. and is available to watch on Fox and MLS Live.
“April 17 will represent a new chapter in Austin history, and preparations for our inaugural season are officially under way,” said Claudio Reyna, sporting director for Austin FC, in a March 10 news release from the team.
The professional soccer league has not released the rest of its regular season schedule. As previously announced, the 2021 season will begin with a slate of games April 16 with the regular season ending Nov. 7.
Construction on the stadium is approximately 95% complete, Austin FC President Andy Loughnane told Community Impact Newspaper March 10, and is on track to be completed in its original timeline by early April.
Loughnane previously said Q2 Stadium would not be ready to host games until this summer, partially due to necessary training for employees and personnel ahead of the stadium opening. The team is currently working on recruiting and hiring employees to work at the stadium.
"We’re in the process of finalizing a couple of full time positions that are stadium related," Loughnane said.
As of March 10, it is unclear if fans will be permitted to attend the home opener inside Q2 Stadium.
City of Austin and Travis County officials stated March 9 they would continue to enforce mask mandates despite earlier conflicting orders from Gov. Greg Abbott. Under a set of standing emergency rules renewed by Dr. Mark Escott, the Austin-Travis County interim health authority, on March 4, Austin and Travis County businesses are instructed to require masking from staff and patrons. Escott’s standing orders have been in effect since August of last year and are currently set to extend through April 15.
The orders for businesses do not explicitly outline capacity limits but do include directions for businesses to maintain social distancing measures between groups of customers.
“Businesses should also clean and disinfect high touch items, require at least six feet between groups of ten or less and post face covering and hygiene signage,” a March 9 news release from the city states.
Abbott’s March 2 executive order lifted capacity restrictions on all businesses statewide, including professional sports venues.
Loughnane said the team anticipated opening its inaugural season on the road for more than a handful of games, and the team intends on using the window to see how professional sports operate statewide before making an announcement on in-person attendance.
"We will be able to observe MLS matches in Texas and other large professional sporting events, including Major League Baseball," Loughnane said. "We will continue to observe and continue to be patient."
Any announcement on the possibility of in-person attendance at Q2 Stadium for the 2021 season will likely be made in May, Loughnane said.
While the team's first game in Austin over a month away, Loughnane said Austin FC is exploring ways to safely bring fans together at Q2 Stadium and other venues for events.
"What we would like to do is begin the process of identifying watch-party opportunities, whether it is at iconic Austin venues or inside Q2 Stadium," Loughnane said. "We’ll have to be very careful, but that is our intent. ... We’ll have a handful of games to do that."