FRISCO, Texas – North Texas SC’s time in USL League One has come to an end as the club has joined the new MLS developmental league: MLS NEXT Pro.
For its inaugural 2022 season, MLS NEXT Pro will have 21 teams (20 MLS-affiliated teams and one independent team, Rochester NY FC). The season will kick off in March with each team playing up to 24 regular season games. Eight teams will make the postseason that will conclude in September. Exact details about the season’s structure will be released later.
Now, North Texas SC enjoyed a lot of success in USL League One. The club won the title in 2019, finished third in 2020 and reached the playoffs this year. Maybe more importantly, it helped develop some high-potential player including Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas), Bryan Reynolds (Roma), Tanner Tessmann (Venezia), Brandon Servania (FC Dallas), Jonathan Gomez (Real Sociedad), Ronaldo Damus (Orange County SC) and many more. So, what will the move to MLS NEXT mean for the club going forward?
First off, North Texas SC will keep its name, colors and home stadium (Choctaw Stadium in Arlington). The club will play in MLS NEXT Pro’s Western Conference alongside 10 other MLS-affiliated clubs: Colorado, Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Seattle, St. Louis and Vancouver. With these opponents, it may be easier for FC Dallas fans to get on board and follow North Texas’ season since the league is aligned with MLS. The rivalries already exist, the opponents and players will be more familiar than in previous USL years, and MLS now has a much better reason to promote the development teams.
“Those rivalry games can help fans become more aware of young names coming up through the system,” said North Texas SC head coach Eric Quill. “I think there’s going to be a lot of curiosity to see what the level is when you start a new league. These derbies and matchup that we see all the time in MLS, let’s see them at a younger age group to start cultivating that competitive culture between markets.”
North Texas will still primarily be a place to develop players for FC Dallas and MLS, whether they be FCD Academy products, imports from abroad or even players from its open tryouts. But a fair question remains: Will the new league provide the same tough away games in hostile environments – that are so important for player development – that USL did? We’ll just have to wait and see on that one.
“The youth development sector is really in high-demand, and we’re really seeing benefits of having structure behind our youth programs,” Quill said. “I think this league is another great way of connecting our youth academies to a professional pathway and I think there’s going to be highly competitive games across the country with all the resources being out into it. More information to come but I think it’s the next great step in connecting the youth game to the professional game.”