The Houston Dynamo have extended Major League Soccer’s reach into the National Women’s Soccer League, announcing Thursday the league’s first expansion franchise, the Dash, which will begin play in 2014.
Houston will own and operate the franchise on all levels and will join the Portland Timbers as the second MLS club to operate a franchise in the women’s professional league. For Dynamo president Chris Canetti, it is a sign of the continued growth of the soccer landscape.
“You look at the excitement that’s been generated here over the last few weeks around the discussion of this team is proof this can help grow the game,” Canetti told MLSsoccer.com. “The response from the community has been fantastic. That is going to make soccer stronger and that’s great for the Dynamo and for MLS.”
With the Dash, the soccer landscape not only grows in Houston, but nationally as the connection between the nation’s two premier professional soccer leagues grows. Last year, the Portland Thorns FC, run by the Timbers, won the inaugural NWSL title and set the high-water mark for attendance.
Houston will look to follow Portland’s lead and build a strong franchise base in Houston. For Canetti, the hope is that as the Dash join the Thorns, more MLS clubs will see the value in joining the now growing league.
“I think that would be great,” Canetti told MLSsoccer.com. “I was encouraged by the Portland Timbers to join. They helped show us why this was a viable business venture and how there were benefits back to the MLS team. I think the more MLS teams that get involved the stronger it can make the league.
“If I was approached by other MLS presidents about doing this and what the outlook is I would be very positive on it.”
The Dash will share the Dynamo’s orange color, BBVA Compass Stadium and the organization’s front-office infrastructure. The technical side, however, will be separate from the Dynamo’s and focused on those who have knowledge of the women’s game.
The first part of that will be hiring a head coach, which Canetti hopes to do soon. The league’s draft will take place in January and roster building can start immediately with the club able to sign international and discovery players right away.
“We’ve got a couple of people that have stepped forward and put their name in the hat for this opportunity and some of them are real credible names in the landscape of United States soccer,” Canetti said. “We’re really early in the stage and in the next few days we’ll elevate those conversations and the goal is to have a coach named by Christmas.”
Whoever that coach is will have the task of building Houston’s franchise from the ground up and quickly.
“Obviously, we will be putting some mechanisms in place with an expansion draft and a college draft, we’re working on details for those to have a proposal to allow them to put a roster together,” NWSL executive director Cheryl Bailey said. “In the next week or so, you’ll see we have a process we’ll lay out for how they can put their team together.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.