AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s an odd year for international soccer. Clubs around the world were ramping up their seasons but are now on hold due to the World Cup starting Nov. 20, which is usually a summer-time, offseason tournament.
Two top-flight German teams decided to make the most of it and take a trip during the unusual break to play in Austin. VfB Stuttgart, a 5-time champion of the Bundesliga, Germany’s top division, and 3-time champs 1. FC Köln will play a friendly match at 3 p.m. Saturday at Q2 Stadium.
VfB Stuttgart organized the trip and had an outreach event with the German-American Heritage Society of Austin on Thursday. The team has been in Austin since Nov. 14 and they’ll leave Nov. 21 and said they’ll also hold two soccer camps for boys and girls in the Austin area, and they also went to an NBA game in Dallas and will go to Houston on Sunday to an NFL game.
Stuttgart head coach Michael Wimmer said the trip is a good opportunity to “engage the fans here in Austin and the United States.”
Wimmer said he saw how well Austin FC did in Major League Soccer this past season, making it to the conference finals in just their second year in the league, and he was impressed with Q2 Stadium.
“What they’ve built up in two years is fantastic,” Wimmer said. “I watch MLS games and see they are sold out, and the soccer culture is booming in the U.S.”
On the team’s website, it explains a little bit about why officials chose to come to Austin, and part of it is what Wimmer pointed out.
“Unlike other North American cities, football is a big deal in Austin since it does not have any other franchises such as American football, basketball, baseball or ice hockey playing in the major leagues,” the team’s website says. It goes on to say Austin is “ideal” for the German Football League’s internationalization activities.
Soccer, or fußball (pronounced foos-ball) in Germany, is nearly a religion all on its own. Teams in the Bundesliga have fans all over the world, and Austin has many fan clubs for international soccer teams. Scholz Garten is the meeting place for fans of Bayern Munich, one of Germany’s most successful and well-known clubs, and is a prime example of how popular teams halfway across the world are here.
Wimmer said this is his first time in the U.S., and he really enjoyed the local cuisine — specifically barbecue. He said it was “very good,” and he’s looking forward to going to watch the Houston Texans play the Washington Commanders on Sunday in Houston. It’ll be his first NFL game, and he saw his first NBA game when the Mavericks took on the Rockets on Wednesday.
Wimmer said doing this trip will help grow soccer in the U.S. and help cultivate more international fandom to help keep its status as the most popular sport in the world.