It’s commonly acknowledged that the state of Texas is a hotbed for youth soccer. And among all the scores of young players of all ages who play the beautiful game in the Lone Star State, the Dallas Texans Soccer Club has emerged as one of the biggest and best youth clubs in the nation.
The team is the work of Hassan Nazari, an Iranian soccer player who came to the US to play for the Dallas Americans of the USL after a career in the Middle East.
Setting up roots in the States after the Americans folded in 1985, the 1978 World Cup veteran saw an opportunity to bring something new and different to the US soccer scene in the early 1990s. The idea came about after stepping in as a coach at a youth club while doing a favor for friend. Thus, the Texans were born in 1993.
“I wanted to create an organization that can be like a club – have their own facility, all players younger and older practicing at the same place, with a clubhouse, indoor facilities,” Nazari told MLSsoccer.com. “So creating a professional environment with that in mind, I started the Dallas Texans.”
Much of Nazari’s vision when he started the club has come to fruition. After starting with just three teams, the Texans signed a sponsorship agreement with Nike two years later that helped speed things along. The club has nearly 20,000 players worldwide today, including affiliates in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Florida, Toronto, Oklahoma and most recently in Africa.
As the founder and director, Nazari has driven the club to new heights. But he also credits being in the right place and creating something that was unique at the time. In the early stages, people were drawn to the idea of what he was trying to engineer.
“What we were bringing here was very new, very refreshing, more professional-looking,” he said. “We were attracting lots of good families and serious soccer players, as well as a lot of good coaches to our organization.”
Over the course of the club’s 18 years in existence, several professionals have come out of its ranks. None has reached the heights of US international and Fulham star Clint Dempsey, who famously commuted to play with the Texans for part of his teenage years.
Other players such as Alejandro Moreno, Hunter Freeman (pictured below), Lee Nguyen and recent draft picks Stephen McCarthy and Anthony Ampaipitakwong have also played for the Texans.
The club has also recently expand overseas, and are entering the second year of their partnership with English giants Manchester United. Nazari makes trips to Manchester to learn from youth coaches there, and in the summer, coaches come over to work with youth players in Texas.
To Nazari, it’s all part of making the club better.
“If you want to be the best, you better learn from the best," he said, "and I think Manchester United is one of the top clubs in the world."
To go with that, in December, the Texans set up an affiliate with Powerhouse Sporting Club in Accra, Ghana, in an effort to create opportunities for African players to be seen in the United States at both collegiate and professional levels.
The Texans also take part in the USSF Development Academy at the U-16 and U-18 levels, but that’s just one small part of the day-to-day of the club. At the Dallas location, boys and girls teams from ages 11-18 are in place.
More than 85 coaches in the Dallas area alone currently work with those teams, with just less than 30 of them as full-time employees of the club.
As the club’s director, Nazari is extremely busy, constantly traveling to different locations and making sure that things are running smoothly. He's had a front-row seat to the tremendous growth of not only the club he started, but also youth soccer in the United States.
“For someone who started coaching 20, 25 years ago in youth soccer, I think soccer in this country has improved a lot,” he said. “The youth clubs now have their own facilities, which 20 years ago when you were talking about that people wouldn’t believe that.”
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