On May 22, just as the sun starts to set on what will surely be another hot, humid day, a collection of players will finish their stretches and get ready to begin the next step in their development. A breeze will cool things down some, but that heat will remain, oppressive for the visitors, welcoming for the fans of the newly minted Houston FC. Wearing black and gold uniforms at the Rice University Soccer Stadium, these college players will come together quickly in order to follow in the footsteps of those before them.
To earn a pro contract.
Founded during the winter, Houston FC is led by President Jeff Fetzer who has worked tirelessly to put the team together ahead of their opener in Oklahoma City against the OKC U-23s on May 20. The first step was to find a home for the team and he found that from his alma mater, Rice University. After that came a head coach hiring and he chose one who is familiar with young players in the area: Bruce Talbot.
Talbot is no stranger to the Premier Development League, having had multiple coaching positions. He’s also coached at the collegiate level and knows what it takes not only to win games, but to move players along up the ladder to one of the pro leagues, be it USL, NASL, MLS or beyond.
For those who don’t know, the PDL is a summer league where college players can keep getting games to further their development. It is also rife with scouts from across the pro leagues, especially Major League Soccer. Indeed almost every player selected in the SuperDraft spent some time in the PDL.
Unfortunately for college-aged players, there are precious few places to ply their trade in Texas, despite being one of the biggest bastions of soccer players in the US. With Houston FC, and the Dynamo affiliated Brazos Valley Cavalry, joining this year, there are now hopes for more opportunities. While more pressure should be put on colleges to field men’s teams, that’s a different article. For now, having the opportunity for players to return home and continue their development is huge. It will also provide more opportunities for academy graduates, be it Dynamo, Lonestar or others in the state, chances to play.
For the absolute top level of US soccer to get better, ie the national team, the development must continue to get better. That means more players playing more games at increasingly higher levels. HFC looks to provide just that. There is just too much talent in Texas that doesn’t get the chance to reach their full potential due to lack of matches. PDL is the first step up the ladder.