Dallas County is gaining a new USL League Two team in 2021 but don’t tell the relocating Texas United that they can’t aim to unite the entire Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
“We’re in the phase of creating a true development pathway for the DFW player,” explained Texas United Head Coach Arez Ardalanai. “In terms of where our actual home base is, we’re kind of in multiple locations in DFW. For example our front office is actually in Frisco, and we’ll be playing our games in Richardson and we’re going to be having tryouts in Fort Worth.”
Formerly based out of Grand Prairie’s AirHogs Stadium, the team owned by Mavs GM Donnie Nelson’s NelTex Sports Group is moving 20 miles to Richardson’s UT Dallas Soccer Complex. With the ballpark set to be replaced with the United States’ second professional-level cricket stadium after the Texas AirHogs called it a day, Texas United will share the stadium field with the NCAA D3 Comets men’s and women’s teams.
A big overhaul was already in place for Ardalani’s side before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the 2020 USL League Two season before it even began, with a tough 2019 campaign that saw only seven points gained in 14 matches.
A team largely made up of high school seniors and college freshmen struggled, while 2021 focuses on mixing up local talent with international players.
“I would say we have about 13 international players this summer,” Ardalani explained. “The thing with that is that we want our local Dallas players in the summertime, playing with the top collegiate international players and developing also with them. With these international players, they’re not freshmen or sophomores, they’re juniors and seniors, you know they are older, they’re more experienced, and they have a lot of accolades under their belt.”
United’s local players fared well in this year’s MLS SuperDraft with four former players taken. Nicky Hernandez, along with fellow FC Dallas academy graduates Brandon Terwege, and Giovanni Motesdeoca were selected along with Irving-native Matt Constant who later earned a contract with Sporting Kansas City II in the USL Championship.
In the mostly Texan Mid South Division, a second out-of-state trip has been added. Little Rock Rangers is making the jump from NPSL, but still pales in comparison to the 800 mile round trip to Jackson, MS to take on Mississippi Brilla FC. The Arkansas club is known for a support that far exceeds the level it’s found at, often pushing 3,000 fans with its Red Watch supporters group.
FC Dallas has long seen criticism over a lack of players from South Dallas and Tarrant County among its academy sides, and Texas United is looking to take advantage of those areas in its next phase as the club embraces not only that hope of becoming a team for all of DFW, but the next step in its plans to develop players.
The Texans will be one of 55 teams to compete in the inaugural USL Academy season, joining fellow USL-2 sides AHFC Royals and Houston FC, as well as USL Championship clubs Austin Bold and RGV FC Toros in an all-Texan South Central Division.
USL Academy consists of a single age group of players aged 15-19. A rule was also announced on May 5 to permit up to five overage players in a game day roster with the caveat that both teams must agree whether the game will be all-youth or involve collegiate and professional players.
Texas United has also committed to joining the second season MLS Next, which would see U-13 to U-19 teams test their mettle against the likes of FC Dallas and Solar SC.
No date is currently set for the USL Academy or 2021/22 MLS Next seasons to get underway.
Texas United will begin its USL League Two season on the road in Corpus Christi on Sunday, May 23. The home opener takes place the following Wednesday with the visit of AHFC Royals from Houston.