By Moses Leos III
Soccer players in the Buda, Kyle and San Marcos area could soon have a chance to take their skills to a semi-professional level.
On May 6, the Texas Premier Soccer League (TSPL), which operates ten clubs across the state, awarded a franchise to Zuzeca Affiliated Soccer Clubs (ZASC) out of south Austin.
The new franchise will operate initially as the San Marcos Football Club (SMFC), according to a press release, and will base operations in the Buda/Kyle and San Marcos area. The club plans to begin play in August.
David R. Walding, president of the ZASC, said providing local soccer fans a team to follow helps fill the void left by the recently departed Austin Aztex.
“After the Aztex left, there was definitely nothing going on (soccer-wise) in San Marcos and Austin,” Walding said. “This will meet the need of a strong home base.”
As part of the TPSL, the new franchise has the opportunity to play for the U.S. Open Cup, which could pit them against opponents from Major League Soccer (MLS) and United States Soccer League (USL).
According to Walding, the franchise has not finalized where exactly it will play. In a release, Walding said, they are working “toward a facility in Hays County” and are forming partnerships within the community.
The ZASC’s focus on Hays County began after its Austin franchise, Galaxia FC, began to see more soccer players from San Marcos, Buda and Kyle.
“We’re located south in Travis County, but as far south as you can get,” Walding said. “It’s close for Kyle and Buda soccer players.”
As a result, Walding said the club has seen several Lehman High and Hays High alumni hit the field.
The new franchise aims to develop players between the ages of 17 and 23. Walding said ZASC has “always had a focus” on developing high school and college soccer players to play professionally.
“It’s that developmental age where you can still have the capacity to get them prepared for a professional career,” Walding said. He added the franchise is modeled after the Premier Developmental League in England.
He also hopes to have a diverse squad, with local players, along with athletes from “Central America, England and all over.”
“We want to integrate players into the team and be as diverse as possible,” he said. “It’s a meritocracy. If you’re good enough, you’ll play.
But focusing on Central Texas was an important factor for Walding, who said the sport has grown over recent years.
According to Walding, Central Texas had one of the highest per capita audiences when the English Premiere League TV network hit the airwaves.
He also said there has been “tremendous support” of Major League Soccer and European soccer.
Walding also said there are now 130-plus amateur soccer teams in the Austin Men’s Soccer League, which is a substantial increase from when Galaxia began in 1996.
“Soccer has grown tremendously since 1996,” he said. “There’s a huge interest and a huge fan base.”