The Future of Soccer Development in Houston

Houston Dynamo President Chris Canetti is currently running the marketing campaign that we have reached Dynamo 3.0. It is supposed to be the next step in building the Houston Dynamo into more of a soccer brand.

In order to build this brand, the Dynamo will have to start depending more on developing soccer talent as opposed to importing it from other teams. Clubs around the world make a profit by not only developing their own players, but then selling those players to other teams. Canetti knows that if Houston wants to reach the next level; they’ll have to start doing the same.

He has already taken the first step by not only announcing the creation of a USL-Pro team in 2016, but by stating that the Dynamo Academy will have to step up their game in order to develop more professional players for said team and eventually the first team itself. Who better to ask about the future of the Houston Dynamo than the current Director of Youth Development, James Clarkson? That is exactly what happened and here’s some insight on the current mood and energy surrounding the Houston Dynamo Academy.

When Clarkson was asked whether launch of a USL-Pro would grant more opportunities for Academy players to be signed as professional players, he stated, “absolutely, it will provide a bridge between the academy and the first team”, but he made sure to add that, “it will however, put pressure on the academy to produce a constant flow of high level players that are ready to step up to the first team. It’s important that we create the right environment to progress through to the first team.”

This response gives us a glimpse on how just the announcement of a USL-Pro team is already motivating the Dynamo Academy. We are also led to assume that the Academy expects some of their products to be signed to USL-Pro contracts once the team is launched. If this integration works out, we will see more players joining the first team from the Academy having already had some first team experience as professional players.

Unbeknownst to many Houston Dynamo fans, a U23 team was launched last year. However, the team did not play in any official league, we asked why this happened and whether there were plans to join a league in 2015. Clarkson’s response shows us some financial difficulties that soccer development within the Dynamo is currently facing. “We didn’t play in an official league due to budgeting and the cost of the leagues. We put together a very competitive schedule for the team to play in, playing teams like Cruziero [from Brazil], Monterrey [from Mexico] and multiple teams from the NASL. Again, we will find high level games for the team to play throughout the summer. The team will train daily in the mornings and we hope to add the team into competitive tournaments around the country. We’ll use this to identify players for the USL Pro team the following year. “

If there were any doubts on whether the USL-Pro team will have, at least, some Academy players, those were quickly eliminated. This upcoming year seems to be an important one for the Academy and its’ players. It should come as no shock if we are currently witnessing a club on the road to becoming self-sustainable when it comes to the majority of its talent. That may still be years off, but this season seems to mark the beginning.

How exactly will the U23s and USL-Pro team co-exist? Clarkson had this to say, “It’s important that the U23s continues in some capacity because under NCAA rules, colligate players are prohibited to play in the USL, with the number of potential quality players that are in college it’s important we’re still impacting their development.” This opens up a pathway for players that are interested in attending college, but also want to have an open avenue within their “home club” to become professionals.

In a hypothetical situation, it would be possible for a player to start their road before entering their teenage years, then heading into college, while giving them a place to play during the summer, and then eventually either joining the USL-Pro team or be signed directly by the first team. Players will not be required to sacrifice their college careers if they don’t want to, but they will also have the opportunity to skip college and become professional players if they’re talented enough for the USL-Pro team.

It seems that as the Houston Dynamo enter their 10th season as a Major League Soccer club, they’re also going to be taking risks that hopefully in the future every club in the country takes. Whether you support club, country or both, this should be something that gives you hope for soccer in the United States. National teams are usually only as strong as their domestic leagues, and if every club starts developing homegrown talent, the national pool will also increase.

If you’re in the Houston area, you can catch the Dynamo Academy play at Houston Sports Park on the following dates in January and February:

1/17: Houston Dynamo U-18 vs Sporting Kansas City U-18 at 2PM

1/18: Houston Dynamo U-18 vs Sporting Kansas City U-18 at 9AM

1/24: Houston Dynamo U-18 vs Colorado Rapids U-18 at 2PM

1/31: Houston Dynamo U-18 vs Solar Chelsea SC U-18 at 10AM

2/21: Houston Dynamo U-18 vs Texans SC Houston U-18 at 2PM

2/28: Houston Dynamo U-18 vs Texas Rush U-18

We also want to take this opportunity to officially announce that the Houston Dynamo Academy will host the Generation Adidas Cup in February, so stay tuned for those dates and venues.

(image courtesy of