It’s the time of year when a lot of soccer leagues are kicking off and with the explosive growth of the game vertically in the United States there are more clubs in North Texas than ever. So it seemed a good time for me to break down the outdoor soccer pyramid in the Motorplex and surrounds.
I’ll 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. In other countries than ours this is the Premier League, the Bundesliga, and Serie A. 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, and moved into what is now Toyota Stadium in 2005. Originally a league-owned team, Lamar Hunt took over the club during 2002.
Division 2 – USL Championship – 0 Local Clubs
The United Soccer League, or USL, is currently the only league operating at the Division 2 professional level with their USL Championship. The NASL (North American Soccer League) used to also run at this level, and the D3 level, but is on hiatus.
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. The 11 clubs in this new endeavor are playing an NPSL Founders Cup competition that will run from August to November in 2019 as a test of sorts.
Side Note: This D2 level is, in my opinion, where there is a gap in our local 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
But we should mention OKC Energy FC, Tulsa Roughnecks 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
The D3 level is the lowest level of full-time professional clubs in the United States and consists of two leagues – USL-1 and NISA.
USL-1 is a new 10 team league formed by the USL for 2019 with 10 teams including 3 MLS feeder clubs.
The NISA (National Independent Soccer Association) received USSF sanctioning for 2019 with a planned 8 teams and a planned promotion/relegation set up. They have announced a start of play with a winter calendar in August 2019. There are no NISA clubs in Texas.
D3 Clubs in North Texas
North Texas SC/NTXSC
North Texas SC
North Texas SC is the brand new feeder club for FC Dallas. They play their home games at Toyota Stadium in Frisco but have a stated goal to play elsewhere both short and long term. Short term probably in someone else’s venue, long run in a venue of their own. 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 who 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.
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
Dallas City FC/DCFC
Dallas City FC
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.
Denton Diablos FC/DDFC
Denton Diablos FC.
A brand new NPSL club in 2019, the Diablos will play at Mean Green Soccer Stadium on the campus of the University of North Texas in Denton. They will also play in the Lone Star Conference of the South Region in the NPSL.
Fort Worth Vaqueros FC/FWVFC
Fort Worth Vaqueros FC
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 (FWISD) prior to the 2018 season. They too play in the Lone Star Conference of the South Region in the NPSL.
Texas United FC./TUFC
Texas United FC.
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. Last year they had a couple of ex-FCD Academy players in their team. (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 – 20 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 three tiers in the Central Conference North Division – Pro Premier, Championship, and League One. 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. I’m lumping all three layers of the UPSL into the overall Division 5 tier.
UPSL Pro Premier Central Conference – North Division
FC Denton – Originally founded in 2006, they have moved up to the UPSL level from NTPSA in 2018.
Inocentes FC – Founded in 1979 and are last season’s UPSL National Runner-Ups. Play at Fort Worth Poly High School.
Irving FC – Also play at Airhogs Stadium in Grand Prairie. Founded in 2018. Their uniforms are kinda hot.
Kernow Storm FC – A Waxahachie based club founded in 2004 but the UPSL side is new.
Oklahoma City FC 1889 FC – Developed out of the OKC Pulse and officially launched in 2017.
Reign FK – A new club to the UPSL founded in 2018. From Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
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 Pro Premier Central Conference – Heart Division
FC Waco – Founded in 2018. Since Waco is only an hour or so south of here I included them. They mostly play against Austin and San Antonio teams.
Continuing down the UPSL divisions… A whole lot of these teams are brand new.
UPSL Championship Central Conference – North Division
Arlington FC – A new club playing in the shadow of the Cowboys.
Dallas City FC – Yes, the semi-pro NPSL team runs a feeder team in the UPSL.
FC Fort Worth – Play games at Southwest High School.
FC Sharp Keys – A new club playing at North Side High School Stadium.
NTX Legends FC – Appear to play at Craig Ranch in McKinney.
Terrell FC – Founded 2014, they play at Ben Gill Park in Terrell.
Weatherford FC – The "first professional soccer team from Weatherford, Texas."
UPSL League One Central Conference – North Division
Aguilas FC – I failed to find any info on them. But I doubt they are affiliated with the club from Spain.
Azul City Premier FC – From Fort Worth. Veteran owned and operated.
FF Premier – Dallas. Founded 2014 but new to UPSL from NTPSA.
Lone Star Republic – Richardson. Also a former NTPSA club.
Somerset SC – A new team. Maybe an offshoot of Somerset FC in the NTPSA?
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?
Keene FC – Founded 2017 but are on hiatus pending a rebrand and relocation. Their new level of play and location currently unknown.
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, runs 7 open men’s divisions, plus 5 over-30, 5 over-40, and 3 over-50 leagues. And there are other local soccer associations in cities all over the Metroplex.
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 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 seven times in a row and have a shot to make it eight straight this Saturday (April 6) at Mountain View College (Stadium Field) in Dallas, TX at 7 pm CT.
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
Dallas Roma FC/DRFC
Dallas Roma FC.
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).