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Houston Dynamo become latest MLS club to launch U-23 team

The Houston Dynamo will launch a new U-23 team to begin play this season, the club announced Wednesday, becoming the eighth MLS club to start a team in that age group.

The new team is intended to provide a bridge between the Dynamo Academy and first team, with both former Dynamo Academy players and players identified in tryouts making up the roster.

"This is another step forward for our player development system,” Dynamo director of youth development James Clarkson said in a statement. “It will be great to work with the college players again and hopefully we find some outstanding talent at the Trials. I'm very confident of putting together a very competitive group this summer."

The Dynamo U-23 season will run from mid-May through mid-July. They will not play in a league, but will participate in the US Men Under-23 Cup Tournament from June 13-15 in Horsham, Pa., and the Copa Alianza at Houston Sports Park from May 24-26. There will also be additional friendlies and tournaments announced at a later date.

Six players, all Dynamo Academy graduates, have been confirmed so for the team, which will be managed under the direction of the Dynamo Academy and coached by Clarkson, assistant director Eddie Robinson and technical coordinator Tom Harris.

The players are: goalkeeper Fernando Pina (Akron), defender Alex Ochoa (West Virginia), and midfielders Bryan Celis (Kentucky), Christian Diaz (West Virginia), Juan Lopez (Purdue Calumet) and Miguel Zapata (Houston Baptist).

Other MLS clubs with U-23 teams include the Chicago Fire, D.C. United, Montreal Impact, Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.