On Tuesday afternoon, Capital City Soccer, along with other members of the media, received an invite to Q2 Stadium for a “What’s New at Q2” event ahead of this Saturday’s season opener against St. Louis City SC.
Guests were treated to lunch with some new and familiar Q2 food options (more on the food in this post), a stadium tour by Austin FC President Andy Loughnane, and a Q&A from Loughnane to discuss some of what to expect this season.
Loughnane described the new season in three sub-buckets: new media, new competitions, and an improved matchday experience at McKalla Place.
The league’s exclusive deal with Apple TV has helped make the answer to the “Where can I watch the game?” question easier, albeit at a price. To watch MLS matches this season, fans have three options:
- Current Apple TV subscribers can pay $79 a year for the package; non-subscribers can pay $99 a year for the package.
- Season ticket holders will have free access to all MLS games this season.
- T-Mobile and Metro customers will also have a free subscription to the package.
iHeart Radio’s KASE-FM (97.5) and TUDN Radio Austin (104.3) will continue to broadcast the games over radio in English and Spanish, respectively.
On the field, perhaps the biggest difference from this season to last season is that Austin FC will go from competing in two competitions to a total of four competitions, with Loughnane highlighting the two newest ones:
- Major League Soccer season
- Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (ESPN owns the viewing rights)
- Leagues Cup 2023 (new this season; included in the Apple TV package)
- CONCACAF Champions League (new for Austin FC this season; FOX Sports owns the viewing rights)
Loughnane expressed excitement about Austin FC’s qualification for the Champions League, the continent’s premier competition, after only two seasons of existence.
Although there have been questions about the first round of the Champions League against Violette AC even being played, given that some of their players weren’t able to clear Visa requirements to enter the US, Loughnane fully expects the teams to play the first round, with the return leg at Q2 Stadium scheduled for March 14.
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The Leagues Cup is a new competition between all 29 MLS teams and all 18 Liga MX teams; Austin FC will play both games of the group stage at Q2. The exact dates of the matches against Mazatlán FC and Juárez FC are yet to be determined, but both MLS and Liga MX seasons will pause during the tournament which is scheduled for July 21 to August 19. The top three teams will earn automatic berths into next season’s Champions League.
Loughnane touted the 97% renewal rate of season ticket holders, a very successful Las Voces kit launch (24-hour and 48-hour sales after release topped all previous jersey releases), and the longest active sellout streak in Major League Soccer as signs that the club is providing its supporters with an enjoyable matchday experience, something that the club isn’t taking for granted.
2023 Q2 Stadium Improvements
The best part of the afternoon (besides all the amazing food that we ate) was learning about the improvements that fans can expect at the stadium this season:
- The stadium added magnetometers at all gates to make it faster for fans to enter Q2, while still preserving safety in the stadium.
- Q2 Stadium is the first soccer specific stadium in the world to utilize Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology at the ATX MRKT on the northeast side of the stadium. Customers can simply scan their card to enter, select their items, and walk out. They’ll automatically be charged as they leave. The aim is to expand its use in other locations of the stadium after testing the technology this season.
- There will be a new, third YETI hydration station in the Southwest corner of the stadium. It won’t be ready quite yet, officials expect it to be ready by the end of May.
- The stadium has enhanced its already decent wifi throughout the stadium.
- Fans in the 300 section of the stadium can expect misters and a sun shading structure to help keep them cool during those warm(er) months.
Overall, there is much to look forward to at Q2 stadium, both on the pitch, and on the concourse.