Dana Crane

FC Dallas Under-23 women's ECNL team heads to nationals after successful first season

FRISCO, Texas - FC Dallas provides hundreds of young athletes with the opportunity to play competitive soccer starting at a young age. For the boys, many continue to play through high school on academy teams, on to college and some even make it to the professional team. However, their female counterparts have never had the opportunity to pull on the red and white of FC Dallas after graduating high school.

This finally changed within the last few years. This year saw the creation of an under-23 team that competes in the Elite Club National League. The team, coached by Chris Ring, recently completed a successful first season and is now preparing for the national championships in Richmond, Virginia in July.

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After a strong start to the season, the team is looking forward to their first trip to nationals.

“The season went really well. This was the first year of the under-23 age group for the ECNL and the group did really well,” Ring said. “I think we’re fortunate that we have experience with women’s teams. This is our third year with a women’s team so we benefited from that, but just like the last two years it’s been a really positive experience.”

The idea to start the team came about three years ago as a way to create a top women’s team for the program.

“The women’s team started three years ago when [youth soccer coach] Chris Hayden wanted to really integrate a full program into FC Dallas. We have the pro men’s team that is the top of the pyramid on the boy’s side and we wanted to have that on the women’s side too. It’s been really good of the club to see that the women’s side is important too,” Ring said.

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The team recruits young women from around the area. Most members of the team grew up playing in the Dallas area and know FC Dallas youth coaches while several players even played on FC Dallas’ youth teams.

The combination of college players from around the metroplex created an impressive team that’s already off to a great start after only playing together for the summer.

“I think our team is pretty stacked. We have a lot of national team players, both Mexican and US, and we have a lot of older players and seniors too, which is an advantage for us,” said team member Sarah Ashley Firstenberg, who will play soccer at The University of North Carolina in the fall.

Jenny Chiu, who will join Firstenberg on the Tar Heels, thinks joining the team is a great way to help with the transition to collegiate soccer.

“I think it’s preparing us pretty well for UNC,” Chiu said.

The team also provides players with an opportunity to practice throughout the summer and continue their development in the offseason.

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“It gives an opportunity for the college player and the player looking for more in the summer an opportunity to play and gives them an outlet to continue their development,” Ring said.

Firstenberg agrees with the advantages of summer soccer. She said that the league gives her a chance to stay in shape and get plenty of touches in, which isn’t the case for many young players.

These advantages keep drawing top young talent from around Dallas and the state of Texas, ensuring a bright future for the new club.

The FC Dallas women will start championship play on July 11 with round robin group play. If they win their bracket, they’ll advance to the championship game on July 15.