April 22, FC Dallas director of coaching Chris Hayden spoke with me about the club’s recently launched Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) team, which will be the first-ever women’s side funded by an American MLS club. FC Dallas Women will play their home games at Pizza Hut Park with the home opener kicking off on Tuesday, May 24 at 7 p.m.
This venture is an extension of the expansive FC Dallas youth program, which includes 120 teams, about 50-50 male and female.
D.C. United recently entered into a partnership to support a 2011 W-League team with DCU branding and Canadian Vancouver Whitecaps currently sponsor a W-League team. These recent ventures indicate new investment and a new way of looking at the business of women’s soccer.
FC Dallas Women kick off May 15
Darrin Hedges will coach FC Dallas women, who will compete in the WPSL Big Sky Conference. The Big Sky Conference features 12 teams in a North-South division format with the winners facing off in the 2011 WPSL National Championship. FC Dallas will play in the South Division, which consists of the American Eagles S.C., Arkansas Comets, Fort Worth Panthers, Houston South Select, Oklahoma Alliance F.C. and the Tulsa Spirit. Click here for the schedule.
The WPSL, an affiliate of the USSF, is the largest women’s soccer league in the world and in 2011 will field over 60 teams in five conferences.
Interview with Chris Hayden
Hayden is responsible for all 75 FC Dallas boys and girls premier youth teams from ages U-11 to U-18 and oversaw the recruitment and launch of the entire FC Dallas Academy program.
LE: What was the thinking behind FC Dallas fielding a WPSL team? How did it come about?
Hayden: We’re a fully-integrated club from U7 to the professional team on the boys’ side and we’ve had a girls club for many years and placed many into college. Our plan was to put this group together to have an opportunity for some of our former players and other girls from the area to play high quality games in the summertime, helping our former players and also promoting female soccer in the area.
We have 800 girls in our club and we felt it was the necessary step for us to have a team and a great opportunity to promote the sport of soccer for our female athletes.
LE: How many youth teams does FC Dallas have altogether?
Hayden: We have 75 select teams from U11 up, and from U10 down we have another 45 teams. So, we have about 120 teams in total and it’s roughly split 50-50 boys and girls. A lot of soccer families have males and females playing. The level is very high here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It’s a hotbed for soccer.
LE: Who from FC Dallas was involved in this decision?
Hayden: Organizationally, we agreed. Many times in the past, we had put U19 teams together to participate in the State Cup for girls who had gone off to school and come back. Rather than just put a team in State Cup with just U19 players, we felt this would be a better idea to attract players of all ages for this team and have it a bit more organized and get behind it a little bit better.
Very high-level female athletes who have already been a part of our club and gone off to school will be coming back and playing with us, which is a natural extension to their college careers. I feel like it’s the right move and we have 100% support from within the organization to support these girls over the summer.
LE: Does this decision go all the way up to technical director Barry Gorman, coach Schellas Hyndman and president Doug Quinn?
LE: Do the girls have to pay anything?
Hayden: We’d like to get it to zero. We’re working on the financial aspect of it now and we’re supporting it in terms of coaching and facilities. We’re looking at the travel and where the girls are going to play and what’s going to be involved from a coaching and organizational standpoint. We don’t yet have a clear picture of what the travel budget is going to be, so I can’t speak to that 100%, but we’re hoping to make it as little cost, if any, as possible.
LE: D.C. United rather suddenly announced their partnership in a W-League team and Vancouver already has a W-League team. Has women’s soccer recently been under discussion in MLS offices?
Hayden: I don’t know. I fully support this because it’s an extension of what we’re already doing. I don’t know that in the future that we would not be behind something like that [W-League]. That would not be my decision, but certainly at some point in the future someone above me in the organization will have to make that decision. But unilaterally, FC Dallas supports the idea of female opportunities. We have a club that’s roughly 50-50 in terms of participation, so it would be something that’s really beneficial to our female athletes.
LE: So with this venture, FC Dallas is now the first American MLS club to field and fund a women’s team.
Hayden: Yeah. It felt like we could support this group and make it competitive and it would send a message.
We’re very excited and I know it’s going to be supported very much. We have 1,800 players in our club and lot of those kids will be very supportive of this team. We’re going to have a mix of home and away games and hopefully the girls in our club, particularly, will get behind this team.
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