With two new USL Championship expansion teams added to the great state of Texas this past off-season – El Paso Locomotive and Austin Bold FC, respectively – it didn’t take long for Texas based soccer fans to start speculating about the possibility of a Texas Cup being created among the now four-strong Texas teams. For those unfamiliar, a competition of this nature exists within the confines of each teams regular season schedule. All head to head match-ups between the four teams will be counted towards the final results for the ultimate Texas-sized bragging rights.
That Cup dream has quickly turned into a reality thanks to two local San Antonio FC fans who have blazed the trail for the regional affair. I recently sat down with the two organizers, Steve Arters of the Crocketteers (@crocketteers) and Danielle Gawronski of Las Rojas FC (@lasrojasfc) to get a first-hand account of how Copa Tejas became a reality and what fans can expect from the Texas Tournament in 2019 and beyond.
TICKET 760: So who’s idea was this and how did it come about? What supporters groups are involved and how receptive were they to the idea, especially having two new Texas teams this season?
Steve: When the El Paso and Austin teams were announced I was kicking around some sort of four-team intrastate rivalry concept. Then when the three SAFC Supporters groups - Mission City Firm, the Crocketteers and 210 Alliance - began discussing all coming together in Section 118 for a unified section during games, it gave the concept a lot of momentum. Now there was a larger platform on which to build and the concentrated power of those three dynamic groups. But the idea needed someone to take it and run with it. So when I decided to commit to it, I called Danielle to discuss a "Cascadia Cup-like concept" and we start working on it almost immediately. Since the leaders of the three SAFC supporters groups were periodically meeting with SAFC's front office on planning for Section 118, we were able to bounce off ideas with them as we were putting the structure together. It was a great collaborative process.
Danielle: All the SAFC supporters groups are on board (210 Alliance, Mission City Firm, and Crocketters). I went to Twitter and after some digging found 8th Notch and RGV Stampede who had connections to Austin supporters. The important component with this is that it be supporters run and supporters driven. The other supporters groups were on board immediately. They had already been talking about this and starting to get some ideas together. Once we all got together in a group chat things started to happen overnight. The response we've seen on Twitter has been very positive and building momentum for the first clash.
T760: Who came up with the name and what was the thought process behind it?
Danielle: We wanted something that reflected South Texas and the pride in our great state. We had to keep in mind the size of the region, so I-35 cup was out. We started with a list of about 20, everything from serious to humorous. We researched hashtags, websites, and handles to see what was associated with the names. Texas trophy had a lot of hunting pictures when you used the hashtag on Instagram. Lonestar cup/legacy had a lot of connotations with the Lonestar soccer clubs.The more we looked into it the more Steve and I started to connect with the name. Then once we had narrowed it down we shared it with the supporters groups and got agreement.
Steve: We developed a list of about 20 Texas or Lonestar-related names and researched online all the various uses or possible conflicts. We cut the names down to two finalists and gave our recommendation of the name and the reasons why to the SAFC supporters leadership. Even before we launched it, we were to discuss it offline with supporters leaders of two of the other teams as well. We got thumbs up from everybody and Copa Tejas was launched. We wanted a name that captured the essence of Texas, worked in a football-soccer context was short so it rolled off the tongue and was easy to remember.
T760: How much inspiration, if any, did you guys draw from things like Cascadia Cup, Southern Derby and Four Corners Cup?
Steve: Since the Cascadia Cup is decades old and captures the spirit of that part of the United States and Canada, it was an obvious choice to study and research. We also researched the Four Corners Cup.
Danielle: I think because the Cascadia Cup has been around since the 70's it is established, very visible, and a great Cup to look at for inspiration. I hope Copa tejas inspires the kinds of TIFOs Cascadia Cup has inspired. The biggest inspiration for me was watching EPL and seeing the passion and hype for derby matches. That same atmosphere and electric energy was something I wanted to see here in South Texas. Plus all the the social media exchanges over the past few seasons between SAFC and RGV made this very natural. This just formalized the rivalries that were already in existence.
T760:Any feedback from any SAFC players (or other players) as of yet?
Danielle: We've had feedback from Tim Holt at SAFC (Managing Director) and he is on board and eager about the cup.
Steve: We haven't really had a chance to discuss Copa Tejas with the coaches and players, but have to believe they'll love it. We did see some of Coach Powell's pre-season speculation that if a Texas rivalry trophy was started it would be great, so we can't wait to hear his thoughts some time soon.
T760: How much does this enhance the rivalries on and off the pitch for the Texas teams, supporters, and fans?
Danielle: I like that it gives our teams something else to play for. It adds meaning each time they step on to the pitch for one of these derby matches during this long season. Everyone wants to win trophies whether players or fans. It just makes the trash talking all that much sweeter when you have something on the line. I also think it elevates the level of Texas soccer in the national view. I think we have been underrated on the national stage and here is a way for Texas to also unify and have an us against the world mentality as well.
T760: Tell us about the trophy – it’s quite beautiful. What went into the design?
Steve: Since it has cup in the name were were looking at various different types of cups and trophies. I thought about the Gold Cup trophy when I was scouting various types of possibilities over a two-week period. I took pictures of three or four different groups of trophies to study and consider. Danielle and I finally selected this one to recommend to the group. It was a quick unanimous decision among all the supporters groups involved. If the four Texas teams are going to battle on the pitch to be the Copa Tejas champion we believe the trophy should be symbolic of that achievement. It is a beautiful trophy.
Danielle: Honestly, my thoughts initially were "the shiny one!" We wanted something that would be reflective of the work, dedication, passion, and professionalism of the teams and supporters, this one met all those criteria. We want to be able to match what our guys do on the pitch in a trophy.
T760: Has any type of formal trophy presentation been discussed, or how will that work?
Danielle: That will definitely be a topic for the group chat. I know with Cascadia Cup it is presented by the fans. I would love to have that element included in there.
T760: What’s the format going to be and what are the tiebreakers? Where can fans go for updated Copa Tejas standings and match dates?
Danielle: Looking at the Cascadia Cup, they have gone through a lot of scenarios, what happens if two teams play each other three times in stead of two, we didn't need to start from scratch in terms of tiebreakers either. We made sure to have that set up before we started. It's the usual things, goal differential, head to head, etc. The long list is on the website www.copatejas.com .
The first match of the competition will be on March 23rd when El Paso squares off against RGV. San Antonio FC joins the fray on March 30th when they travel to Austin. We'll be following the action all season long to see who wins the first ever Copa Tejas.
The excitement around the state for Copa Tejas was almost immediate. Here's a sampling of twitter reaction surrounding the Copa Tejas announcement.