The MLS team F.C. Dallas and the Frisco school district just outside of Dallas have begun discussions on what could be a groundbreaking partnership for youth soccer in the U.S. In one proposal under consideration, hand-picked teenagers would live in dorms at Pizza Hut Park, F.C. Dallas' home stadium, and take classes at schools within the Frisco I.S.D. The discussions were first reported in a Sports Illustrated piece, which was then highlighted by the Dallas Morning News.
While any deal could still face significant hurdles, an agreement under those terms would be a milestone in changing philosophies about youth soccer development in the U.S. While the senior national teams have continued to improve on the international stage, the country is still far behind European nations and other top international contenders at lower youth levels. That lag is often attributed to what soccer purists consider to be inefficiencies in the American scholastic system, which advocates educational development and life balance above total commitment to soccer, just as it does with other sports.
That could all change if the plan being proposed by F.C. Dallas owner Dan Hunt, on the far right in the photo above, eventually comes about. And Hunt is saying all the right things about wanting to make his organization more home grown. Here's what he told SI.com:
"I love the Chivas-Guadalajara model of having players all from Mexico," FC Dallas owner Dan Hunt said. "Will FC Dallas ever be 100 percent players from the (Dallas-Fort Worth) Metroplex? I don't think so, but we can have a large number of home-grown players here."
An in-house academy would also level the elite youth soccer player fields, an aspect that can be particularly pronounced in areas with the geographic spread of the Dallas-Fort Worth region. In the Dallas metroplex, talented teenagers often have to travel more than an hour each way to practices and games to rise to their proper competitive level (Fulham and U.S. international Clint Dempsey is just one high profile example of a Dallas teen who had to travel those distances).
Hunt's plan would eliminate those travel times and also make top-level youth soccer available to the legions of talented players who just can't afford it.
"There's been a huge socioeconomic disconnect which is not fair," Hunt said. "... It's a shame that a boy or girl shouldn't get the opportunity to play because they can't afford it."
The F.C. Dallas plan may be a long way from fruition, but the fact that earnest discussions are taking place is significant. Every revolution has to start with a single shot, and if youth soccer in America eventually develops into the true, European-style academy system that Hunt and some others envision, these early planning sessions could be the moment that provides that first shot.