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What a time of excitement and optimism it is for soccer fans in South Texas!
Youth soccer continues to boom and Texas continues to produce talent capable of going on to higher levels of the game with the destination being the collegiate level and Major League Soccer.
Currently listed on the books of Major League Soccer clubs are numerous Houston area players like Marcus Storey (Columbus Crew), Arturo Alvarez (FC Dallas), Chris Gbandi (FC Dallas), Rusty Pierce (Real Salt Lake), Nelson Akwari (Real Salt Lake), Ricky Lewis (Colorado), Josh Gardner (L.A. Galaxy), Alex Woods (FC Dallas) , Martin Hutton (Kansas City Wizards) and Davey Arnaud (Kansas City Wizards).
Another Houston product Stuart Holden signed with Sunderland in the English First Division a few months back while others play in the United Soccer League.
These players grew up playing in places like Bear Creek Park and Meyer Park, playing for clubs like Texas Premier, the Hurricanes, Texans, Eclipse and Cy-Fair Dynamos, some of which are recognized nationally.
Many went through the South Texas Youth Soccer Association Olympic Development program.
What hopefully will occur next is that one of our local players will make an impact at the senior international level.
Top men's and women's collegiate programs across the country are sprinkled with youth players all developed in our region .
So many individuals have spent years promoting and building our great soccer environment in Houston.
Our adult leagues (Texas State Soccer Association South) provide a great outlet for many every weekend to continue playing soccer at various levels of competition with the aim being participation and enjoyment.
Many ex-pros and top collegiate players are playing in leagues like the Houston Football Association, keeping the passion alive and passing valuable lessons on to younger players.
Players that have played in MLS, the CISL and USL compete against collegiate players that have won national championships.
At the college level the Rice University women's program gained entry into the NCAA tournament for the first time in their history this past season while the University of Houston looks to rebound this year.
Up the road in College Station the Texas A&M Aggie women are considered one of the top programs in the nation and will host the upcoming NCAA Women's College Cup next fall.
The San Jacinto Junior College men's program is nationally ranked and has proven to be one of the top junior college programs in the nation.
All that is needed now is NCAA Division I soccer to be adopted by Rice or the University of Houston to complete the picture.
Think of how wonderful it would be for male youth players locally to know that they could stay in Houston and play at the Division I level.
With the right person heading up the program a men's team could be ranked in the top twenty within four years, I have no doubt.
Media growth around soccer in Houston has clearly been evident.
The Houston Chronicle now provides great coverage to our game while talk radio has embraced the sport.
After a wonderful ground breaking three years at 90.1 KPFT FM radio, my radio program (The Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis) now airs on ESPN 790AM the Sports Animal every Wednesday night at 9 p.m. where we discuss top issues in the game.
These gains would not have been made without the support of Houston area soccer fans who read the paper and listen to the radio.
Media support of soccer is vital for the sport on every level. It effects everyone from the retail soccer owner to youth players at the fields.
Businesses understand the importance of advertising to a large growing segment of our community that counts soccer as its passion. Houston's amazing diversity makes it a city that is unique in the United States with soccer fans coming from Central America, Mexico, South America, Africa, Asia and Europe.
Major League Soccer recognizes Houston as a city it one day would like to have a team in.
Numerous investors (AEG, Club America) are looking seriously at Houston as a place to bring a team and have come in and out of our city doing their due diligence.
Will the Kansas City Wizards be re-located here? Will Club America buy into the league with an eye on Houston? Only time will tell.
HISD is doing due diligence around potentially re-developing an existing complex that would include a soccer facility suited for MLS.
All of the above has been sown together with the amazing run of international soccer that has come through Reliant Stadium.
Lone Star Sports and Entertainment with vision and resources has been able to extol the virtues of our soccer city to the rest of the world since 2003 starting it off with a memorable sold out crowd for the U.S. and Mexico men's national team's that drew close to 70,000 fans on a Thursday night.
Yes, a Thursday night for a friendly.
Teams like Club America, Everton, Pachuca, Chivas, Cruz Azul,.Jaguares, Kansas City Wizards, El Salvador and Guatemala have all come through our town remarkably playing in events like the Interliga Tournament and Copa de Tejas.
English League club Everton credit a pre-season in Houston and participation in the Copa de Tejas as one of the main reasons they ended up fourth in the English Premiership and earned a place in next year's Champions League.
We as fans are fortunate to have this opportunity to attend the quality of these matches in our own backyard!
If all that is not enough now the most meaningful soccer matches in Houston history will come to Reliant Stadium this July on the 13th and 17th when the Gold Cup comes to town.
Mexico will play Jamaica and the "Reggae Boyz" on July 13 at the back end of a doubleheader that also features 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa (Bafana Bafana) and a Carlos Ruiz led Guatemal national team. Ruiz known as "pescadito" is one of the greatest strikers in MLS history and performs up I-45 for FC Dallas in MLS.
The Gold Cup is CONCACAF's version of the European Championships or South America's Copa America. This tournament will crown the top national team in North America , Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The event will show off numerous players that will be participating in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
The opportunity is an amazing one for fans of the world's game in Houston to get intimately connected to world class soccer in a world class soccer facility.
Houston will be center stage and again it will be a captive opportunity to get youth players in front of professionals in a soccer passionate environment.
What an impact this can make on a young player!!
These games will be perfect for youth clubs to get their young players exposure in a soccer passionate environment.
How fortunate we are to have this in our own backyard!
Youth coaching directors and presidents have a wonderful opportunity to get their players out to the Gold Cup, the benefits are immense as we show our youth the big picture.
Together we can support professional soccer in Houston!
See you at Reliant for the Gold Cup in July!
Davis is a nationally recognized broadcaster for HDNET where he partners up with former U.S. National Team defender Marcelo Balboa. He was one of the lead voices for ESPN during the 2002 World Cup and has called major international soccer matches for the Fox Network as well. He is a weekly columnist for the Houston Chronicle and hosts the "Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis" radio show on 90.1KPFT FM Radio every Sunday from 5-6 pm. Davis played soccer professionally for the Houston Dynamos where he was a league all star selection and team captain.