HOUSTON. – Big moves are being made on and off the pitch by the Houston Dynamo. One of the club’s priorities is to “reconnect and reenergize the fan base” and it is starting off with the creation of 15 soccer mini pitches in the community.
Houston Dynamo owners Jake Silverstein and Ben Guill, along with U.S soccer legend and ex-Dynamo player DaMarcus Beasley joined forces with the U.S. Soccer Foundation in the initiative to create a safe place for children and families to gather and play soccer.
The mini pitches will be located across the Greater Houston area over the next five years, and by Spring 2020 it is projected that three will be up and running.
“Houston is just an exciting and vibrant city, it’s one of the largest in the United States. I don’t know how a city of Houston could be left out in an initiative like this. It’s extremely important across the country to create access and opportunity for people to be able to play this wonderful game,” said Ed Foster-Simeon, President & CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
Due to the size of Houston, transportation is one of the major issues children and parents run into when trying to get their children into sports.
“This commitment has reflected the idea that rather than having kids come to soccer, it’s bringing soccer to where children are, where they live and where they play,” Foster-Simeon said.
Although the exact locations of the mini pitches haven’t yet been revealed, they will be targeted to underserved areas where there is limited access to safe places to play.
“We want to introduce kids in underserved areas to the game of soccer in a safe place in an urban area, and we hope that it’s exciting for the kids and everybody involved — parents, coaches — and it ultimately benefits the young people involved, and the Houston Dash and Dynamo because you get more people involved in soccer,” Guill said.
Guill said the staff is working really hard to make the MLS team more exciting and more relevant, and to get more people out to the stadium
“I guess we aren’t doing a good enough job because we should have that stadium filled for every game and it’s not even close. In some games it is, but in most games it’s not. We need to be more relevant as a team in the city and in every neighborhood,” Guill said.
Guill talked about the club hiring a new marketing person, new salesperson, new management, new coach and new players to aid in this transformative goal.
Guill, who also serves on the board of directors for the Houston 2026 World Cup Bid Committee, sees the mini-pitch initiative as part of working toward making Houston a soccer capital in the United States. He believes the project, plus successful Dynamo and Dash teams, can help Houston win one of the 10 spots available for hosting the World Cup.
The mini pitches are also a step forward in gaining the trust of many Houston fans who have in the past expressed disconnect with the team as far as community involvement.
“It can only help, and it shows that the Dynamo and the Dash care about the city and care about every community, and in a bigger picture, we care about the game,” Beasley said. “We want the game of soccer to grow in Houston. There is so much diversity and so many kids playing soccer. We want to help with that.”
Mini soccer fields have been tested in other cities, such as Portland, where minority Dynamo owner Silverstein resides. He has seen first-hand the positive impact the fields can have for children and believes they encourage growth of the game and local talent, who may someday wear a Dynamo or Dash Jersey.
“We are definitely interested in having more homegrown players, and I want Houston to be a really thriving soccer city for all ages, all the way through,” said Silverstein, who spearheaded the project. “And if it happens, if we are able to identify and nurture some talents as a result of these (pitches), that would be terrific. But this is sort of just scratching the surface of our plan to invest in the academy and youth development program.