As Austin FC enters its fourth year in the MLS, there aren’t many teams in the league that the Club has yet to play against during the regular season. That small list is set to get even smaller in 2024 as the Verde & Black will match up against Eastern Conference foes Philadelphia Union and New York City FC for the first time ever in competitive play. Austin will host Philadelphia at Q2 Stadium on Saturday, March 16, at 7:30 p.m. CT, while the NYCFC match will also take place in Austin on Saturday, July 6, at 7:30 p.m. CT.
The Verde & Black has a strong record against the Eastern Conference over the past two seasons, posting a 9-4-1 record since the start of 2022 in cross-conference matchups.
After reaching the MLS Cup Final in 2022 and narrowly falling to LAFC in penalties, Philadelphia Union finished fourth in the Eastern Conference in 2023, earning 55 points with a 15-10-9 record. In the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs, Head Coach Jim Curtin’s side defeated New England Revolution in the first round, winning the first two matches of the best-of-three series. Their 2023 season came to an end when they lost 1-0 to Supporters’ Shield winners FC Cincinnati in the conference semifinals.
Dániel Gazdag and Julián Carranza led Philadelphia in goals last season with 14 each, the only pair of teammates to net at least 14 goals in the league. Gazdag also recorded 11 assists to lead the team with 25 goal contributions. Philadelphia’s roster also featured two All-Stars. Midfielder José Martínez and defender Jakob Glesnes were both selected to participate in the 2023 MLS All-Star Game alongside, where they teamed up with Austin FC’s Jon Gallagher to face Arsenal FC last July.
In preparation for the 2024 season, the Union have already added a player from abroad this offseason in Danish midfielder Sanders Ngabo from Lyngby BK. The team also reached agreements on new contracts with midfielders Jesus Bueno, who played 24 games and started 10 for the Union in 2023, and Chris Donovan, a Homegrown player who scored the game-winning goal against New England which secured Philadelphia's spot in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Union have not finished below fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings since 2018, so the match in early March should be a highly competitive one.
NYCFC failed to qualify for the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs, which marks the first time since the team’s inaugural season in 2015 that it has not taken part in the postseason. NYCFC posted 41 points with a record of 9-14-11 and endured a 12-match winless run across all competitions from the end of April until the beginning of July, which ultimately led to their elimination on Decision Day.
Gabriel Pereira paced the 'Boys in Blue' with six goals, while Santiago Rodríguez finished the season as the team leader in goal contributions with four goals and eight assists.
On December 14, NYCFC and goalkeeper Matt Freese agreed to a contract extension after Freese made 14 appearances and recorded six clean sheets during the 2023 season. In the 2023 MLS SuperDraft, NYCFC used the eighth overall pick to select Malachi Jones, a sophomore from Lipscomb University.
The first meeting between Austin and NYCFC in 2024 will arrive on Fourth of July weekend. Both teams will be hungry for points to help them push toward a return to the playoffs, and the Verde & Black will be spurred on by their raucous home crowd at Q2 Stadium.
Though Austin has hosted both Orlando City SC and Toronto FC in prior seasons, the Verde & Black will make their debut visit to each team’s home ground in 2024. For the second consecutive season, Austin will play a match Sunshine State, taking on Orlando at Exploria Stadium on Saturday, March 23 at 6:30 p.m. CT. Austin will also travel to Canada to take on Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday, September 14 at 6:30 p.m. CT.