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 launching 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. The remnants of the NASL are working with the NPSL (see below) to relaunch a new league at either this D2 level or one level below this in D3 for 2020. Originally announced with 11 clubs, just 6 sides are playing in the NPSL Members Cup but it not a sanctioned league at this time.
Side Note: This D2 level is, in my opinion, where there is a gap in our MetroPlex teams. With just short of 900k people living in the city itself, Fort Worth and its surrounding suburbs are more than large enough to support a D2 team on their own.
D2 Clubs in North Texas
It’s worth a mention that OKC Energy FC, Tulsa FC, Austin Bold FC, El Paso Locomotive FC, and San Antonio FC are close’ish if you feel the need for a road trip to take in some USL Championship soccer.
Division 3 – USL League One – 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 they played their home games at Toyota Stadium in Frisco but are moving to Globe Life Park in Arlington for 2020-2022. NXSC is a connection between the MLS side and the Academy for FC Dallas with a focus on, but not exclusivity to, the U23 age bracket.
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 as a fair share of their teams are made up of college players or adults who double dip with indoor soccer at the semi-pro level. NPSL has announced plans for a more year-round schedule for some of their teams.
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
Founded in 2013, Dallas City FC used to play at Bishop Lynch’s Roffino Stadium in Dallas but is moving to a new home for 2019 at the DCFC McKinney Soccer Complex. They play in the Lone Star Conference of the South Region in the NPSL.
Launched in 2019, the Diablos play at Mean Green Soccer Stadium on the campus of the University of North Texas 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. Vaqueros spent the next three seasons at Texas Wesleyan University’s Martin Field before moving to the significantly better fitting Farrington Field (FW ISD) prior to the 2018 season. They too play in the Lone Star Conference of the South Region in the NPSL.
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 South Texas or Mississippi so their travel load is larger. Texas United was founded in 2017 and plays their home games at AirHogs Stadium in Grand Prairie. (Texas United FC should not to be confused with the youth club Texas United FC in Houston.)
Below this level, it starts to get a little muddy…
Division 5 – UPSL and USASA EAPLs – 24+ Local Clubs
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. 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 Central Conference – North Division I
Arlington FC – A club playing in the shadow of the Cowboys. Use RL Anderson stadium for home games.
FC Fort Worth – Play at Southwest High School
FC Waco – Founded in 2018. Home games at University High School.
Inocentes FC – Founded in 1979 and are last season’s UPSL National Runner-Ups. Play at Fort Worth Poly High School.
Texas Spurs – 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.
UPSL Central Conference – North Division II
Kernow Storm FC – A Waxahachie based club founded in 2004 joined UPSL in 2018. Play at Midlothian Community Stadium.
Lone Star Republic – Richardson, play at the Greenhill School. Coach by Zach Loyd. A former NTPSA club.
NTX Legends FC – Play at Vela Athletic Complex.
Real Irving CD – New team without a home field.
Sporting NTX – Play at the Greenhill School in Addison.
UPSL Central Conference – North Red River Division II
Arkansas Wolves FC– Play at Scott Field in Little Rock.
Dallas City FC – Yes, the semi-pro NPSL team runs a feeder team in the UPSL.
FF Premier – Dallas. Founded 2014, moved up to UPSL from NTPSA in 2018.
Tulsa Athletic U20– a.k.a. TA 20. The U20 feeder team of the NPSL side.
Tyler FC– Former NPSL side dropped down to UPSL.
UPSL Central Conference – North Division III
Arlington FC II – Feeder club for Arlington FC.
Azul City Premier FC – From Fort Worth. Veteran owned and operated. Gateway Park.
Deportivo Alcranes – A Fort Worth club, play at West Park.
FC Harrington – Valley Ridge Soccer Complex in Duncanville.
FC Sharp Keys – Play at North Side High School Stadium.
Somerset SC – Greenhill School. Maybe an offshoot of Somerset FC in the NTPSA?
Terrell FC – Founded in 2014, they play at Ben Gill Park in Terrell.
Two D5 area clubs that you may be familiar with that are on Hiatus…
Dallas Elite FC – Founded in 2010, Dallas Elite played at Lion Stadium in Plano. Former FC Dallas midfielder and current North Texas SC assistant coach Michel was involved with them last year. They are taking 2019 off as to “shift the gear and plan for something greater.” Aiming for NPSL or USL-2 perhaps?
I’m not sure what this designation on the UPSL website means.
FC Denton – Originally founded in 2006, they have moved up to the UPSL level from NTPSA in 2018.
Oklahoma City FC 1889 FC – Developed out of the OKC Pulse and officially launched in 2017.
Reign FK – Founded in 2018. From Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
Weatherford FC – The “first professional soccer team from Weatherford, Texas.”
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…
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).