We are in an era of explosive growth of soccer vertically in the United States and there are more clubs in North Texas than ever. In this space, I try to break down the pyramid of soccer in North Texas from MLS down to the top amateur level.
It seems logical to start at the top and work my way down the levels and include every local club I know about. I’m going to use the USSF (United States Soccer Federation – the governing body for soccer in the United States) divisions and then a few levels below that stopping with the top amateur level.
In any given bracket I’ll list the clubs in alphabetical order.
Division 1 – MLS – 1 Local Club
In any given country, Division 1 is the top professional league: Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A, etc. In the United States it’s Major League Soccer.
D1 Clubs in North Texas
If you’re reading this post I’m sure you knew this one. FC Dallas has been the top-level club in the area since it was founded in 1996 as the Dallas Burn.
The club started out playing in the Cotton Bowl, had one disastrous season in Southlake at Dragon Stadium in 2003, returned to the Cotton Bowl for 2004, rebranded and moved into what is now Toyota Stadium partway through 2005. Originally a league-owned team, Lamar Hunt took over the club during 2002.
From 1967 to 1981 the North American Soccer League was the top division in the United States and the local pro side was the Dallas Tornado. Also owned by Lamar Hunt.
The other two MLS sides in Texas are Houston Dynamo and Austin FC, the latter beginning play in 2021.
Division 2 – USL Championship – 0 Local Clubs
The NASL (North American Soccer League) used to also run at this level and the D3 level, but no longer do.
Currently, Donnie Nelson is holding the Austin Bold franchise rights in an attempt to bring a team to Fort Worth, but it’s not looking good.
D2 Clubs in North Texas
Division 3 – USL League One, NISA, or MLS Next Pro – 1 Local Club
USL-1 was founded in 2019 with 10 teams including 3 MLS feeder clubs.
The NISA (National Independent Soccer Association) received USSF sanctioning for 2019 and launched with seven teams and a planned promotion/relegation set up. There are no NISA clubs in Texas and none of the announced expansion teams are in Texas either.
D3 Clubs in North Texas
North Texas SC is the professional development club of FC Dallas. In 2019 as part of USL-1, they played their home games at Toyota Stadium in Frisco but moved to Globe Life Park (now Choctaw Stadium) in Arlington for 2022 as the club shifted from USL-1 to MLS Next Pro.
Division 4 – USL League Two and NPSL – 4 Local Clubs
D4 is usually referred to as Semi-Pro and is not sanctioned officially by USSF as they sanction only professional teams and leagues. Instead, these leagues are sanctioned by USASA (United States Adult Soccer Association) which is a national member of the USSF.
The two leagues operating at this level – USL-2 (formally the PDL or Premier Development League) and NPSL (National Premier Soccer League) – are generally recognized as being a higher level than straight-amateur leagues. Both are national leagues which gives them a higher standing as well.
Both these leagues also have special rules that allow college players from the NCAA to participate without losing eligibility. Both leagues run on a summer-ish schedule from May to July.
Three other regional leagues that operate at a similar D4 level are the American Soccer League – who pay players and have a stated goal of reaching the D3 level – as well the Eastern Development Program and the West Coast Soccer Association who use college amateurs. None of these three regional leagues have teams in Texas.
D4 Clubs in North Texas
Launched in 2019, the Diablos play in Denton. They also play in the Lone Star Conference of the South Region in the NPSL.
Founded in 2013, the Vaqueros originally played at historic LaGrave Field but had to relocate in 2015 and a couple time since. They too play in the Lone Star Conference of the South Region in the NPSL.
Other Texas teams in the Lone Star Conference: Austin United FC, Brownsville NPSL, Central Texas Coyotes FC, CF10 Houston FC, Corinthians FC of San Antonio, Laredo Heat, Lubbock Maradors, and West Texas FC.
Tulsa Athletic and OKC 1889 FC play in the Heartland Conference.
The lone local side playing in USL-2 where they compete in the Mid South Division of the Southern Conference. The rest of their conference’s teams are located in Louisiana, Arkansas, or Mississippi. Texas United was founded in 2017.
Below this level, it starts to get a little muddy…
Division 5 – UPSL and USASA EAPLs
Again, this level is not sanctioned by USSF but rather by USASA. What separates these leagues from local leagues is that they are all national leagues or larger regional leagues who play at (theoretically) a higher level. They are mostly amateur or very light level semi-pro.
The UPSL (United Premier Soccer League) founded in 2011, is a full season, adult, amateur, national soccer league with teams in regionalized conferences throughout the United States with two tiers of play. Two seasons are played each year using regional play that culminates in a playoff system that crowns a single national champion each season. The league features internal promotion and relegation with up to three levels in some regions.
The USASA Elite Amateur Premier Leagues are actually a collection of 17 amateur, high-level, state or regional leagues recognized by the USASA. None of these regional leagues are in North Texas, however. One example of such a league is the Gulf Coast Premier League (GCPL) that operates across the Southeast and just added one of my favorite brands in all US soccer, Bugeaters FC out of Nebraska.
D5 Clubs in North Texas and Proximity
The UPSL is exploding as a national league and has four tiers in the Central Conference North Division. Since the UPSL uses promotion and relegation the teams in each level change fairly often; plus this league is growing really quickly so it’s super chaotic anyway.
UPSL Texas North Conference – Premier
The FC Dallas Academy fielded a team in this conference for the first time in 2023. Most games it was comprised of U19s.
Foro Soccer Club – Founded in 2017 as Keene FC, moved/rebranded after time on hiatus. Currently coached by former FCD mid and current North Texas SC Assistant Coach Michel.
Texas Spurs – Allen. Former Dallas Burn defender Ed Puskarich’s club. Founded in 1998, Spurs is a well-established youth club out of the McKinney area. They have a WPSL women’s side as well.
Sporting NTX – McKinney
Coppell FC – Coppell
Dallas Deportivo FC – Dallas
FC Dallas Dynamo – Dallas (No, they aren’t connect to Houston Dynamo or FC Dallas)
NTX Legends FC – Denton
Racing Dallas FC – Dallas
Tenfifteen FC – Dallas
With the chaos of the pandemic, many leagues and clubs went into Hiatus. Locally Fort Worth Vaqueros and Denton Diablos put together a small competition with a couple of other teams. Here’s the list.
- Fort Worth Vaqueros
- Denton Diablos
- Denton Diablos Estudiantes
- Inocentes FC
- NTX Rayados
- Irving FC
Division 6 – USASA and US Club Soccer – 1 Club Needs Mention
This is the level at which 95% of all American adults play soccer. It’s 100%, in theory, amateur soccer. These are the local soccer leagues that you and I play in as adults.
In North Texas, based in Dallas specifically, the best league at this amateur level is in the NTPSA – the North Texas Premier Soccer Association. NTPSA, as an example, at the time of writing this runs 4 open men’s divisions, plus 4 over-30, 5 over-40, 2 over-50 leagues, and 2 over-55 leagues. And there are other local soccer associations in cities all over the Metroplex.
There is also a new rapidly expanding player in the Dallas area of local soccer leagues, Dallas Soccer Alliance based at MoneyGram Park in Irving.
The NTPSA’s elite Division 01A is arguably more talented than many of the D4 and D5 teams I mentioned above in this article. Quite a few former professional and NCAA players play in this and other amateur divisions. There are several excellent teams in the NTPSA D01A, but this claim at quality can be demonstrated by talking about one local club in particular that has made a name for themselves…
Founded in 1979 and are last season’s UPSL National Runner-Ups. Play at Fort Worth Poly High School. They’ve been a strong club for years.
NTX Rayados has played in the NTPSA since 2011, winning five Division 01A Championships in that time. They seem to recruit heavily from former NCAA players, ex-FCD Academy players, and even current Richland College (D3 Juco) players. What is remarkable about NTX Rayados is the fact they’ve made it into the US Open Cup eight times in a row.
Twice Rayados have made deeper runs in 2014 (3rd Round) and 2018 (4th Round) knocking off much bigger clubs along the way. In 2014 they knocked off Austin Aztex of the PDL before losing to the NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions. Then in 2018, NTX Rayados knocked off Fort Worth Vaqueros (NPSL) and FC Wichita (NPSL) before falling to MLS’s Houston Dynamo.
R.I.P. Dallas Roma
Let’s also give some love to the Dallas Roma FC, who while still a functioning soccer club doesn’t field a men’s team anymore.
The Dallas Roma 2006 US Open Cup run is the stuff of legends as they defeated USL side Miami FC in the 2nd round, tied Chivas USA (MLS) in the third round before winning on PKs, then going on to finally taste defeat in the 4th round at the hands of the LA Galaxy (MLS).