At the British Beverage Company, FC Dallas announced the branding, the general manager, and the first player signing of their USL League One team.
Dan Hunt unveiled the badge of the new club, North Texas SC, Matt Denny as General Manager, and Academy Player Ricardo Pepi as the team’s first signing. FC Dallas is now the twelveth MLS team to own a second team in either the USL Championship or USL League One. The team’s existence was announced on November 2nd as the tenth founding member of USL League One, the third division of US Soccer. It will play 2019 in Toyota stadium, but the club has already announced the possibility of games across the metroplex, and that a different venue will hopefully house the team by 2020.
USL League One was created in the last year or so to fill up the space that USL (currently USL Championship) left when it was granted Division II status after a petition done by the league. The current list of ten teams besides North Texas SC are Chattanooga Red Wolves SC (Chattanooga, Tennessee), FC Tuscon (Tuscon, Arizona), Forward Madison FC (Madison, Wisconsin), Greenville Triumph SC (Greenville, South Carolina), Lansing Ignite FC (Lansing, Michigan), Orlando City B (Montverde, Florida), Richmond Kickers (Richmond, Virginia), South Georgia Tormenta (Statesboro, Georgia), and Toronto FC II (Toronto, Ontario). The teams are set to start play on March 29th, with NTXSC beginning play at Toyota Stadium against Chattanooga Red Wolves on March 30th.
The club has not announced a head coach or coaching staff for the USL side, as it is waiting for the signing of a head coach and coaching staff for the main team before making any announcements for the second team.
NTXSC was created for a clear purpose that was repeated multiple times by both Dan and Matt: to bridge the gap between the academy and the first team and to help develop players. The majority of the FC Dallas community has implored the Hunt Family to create the second team, as it is well known that the club is focused on developing local talent. The ability to grow the skills of a player in a second team is well known to MLS fans, as players like Aaron Long, Tyler Adams, and Alphonso Davies all began their careers in the second teams of their clubs.
There was also a major backlash on the loss of talent possibly due to the lack of a USL team. Many fans have insisted that playing Weston McKinnie (now Champions League Starter) and Shaft Brewer in a USL Team might have compelled the two to not leave. With NTXSC, FC Dallas is hoping to lower the chances of an academy product leaving the club for European ambitions.
FC Dallas has improved in the aspect of losing talent for nothing. The partnership created with Bayern Munich has allowed a player like Chris Richards to get closer to achieving his dream of a career in Europe while also possibly allowing FC Dallas to profit. At the same time, the partnership has allowed players like Brandon Servania and Thomas Roberts to train ten-day stints in Munich.
FC Dallas is late to the party, I’ll admit, but signing Pepi displays a true sense of determination to develop these players into stars. Pepi is being hailed as one of the best strikers in the 2000-2003 player pool along with other players like his academy teammate Dante Sealy. He is so highly rated that both the USMNT and Mexico have been fighting against each other to get the player into their pool. Pepi has played for both teams at various age groups, recently playing for the US and scoring a goal and starting two games at the Nike International Friendlies.
The importance of signing players like Pepi can’t be understated. The club has already lost players like Cristian Cappis and Keylor Figueroa just this year. While losing Cappis wasn’t our fault (the club tried to sign him but were unable to do so due to homegrown rights with Houston Dynamo), FC Dallas could have signed him on a normal player contract to a USL side. Also, the team just lost Maynor’s son, Keylor, to Liverpool Academy. Although just a kid, he has a skill set that many top-tier academies around the world wanted, and the ability to show him a pathway to the first team would have definitely given him pause for thought before signing with the English Club.
For what it’s worth, I think Matt Denny will do well in his position. He is clearly in love with the sport and has experience in the finances part of the sport. While he doesn’t have the pedigree of a general manager, nor the ability to connect with young teen players like Oguchi Onyewu can, but he seems like a competent hire who won’t let the team fall into disrepair like FC Montreal or Vancouver Whitecaps 2.
He (no offense Matt), however, is not the important part of yesterday. Pepi being announced as a player is the main takeaway from yesterday. He gave up NCAA eligibility to play for this club, and that is a sign that every prospective player wants to see. The USL League One side is going to have an enormous impact on the academy, as we all expect the club to sign more kids from the academy or to bring the kids up on “loans” from the academy. These kids will play with real men against real men to develop into real men, and any FCD fan should be excited about what’s in store.
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