HOUSTON – The Houston Dynamo are exploring the opportunity to bring even more soccer to the Bayou City.
According Dynamo president Chris Canetti, the club is looking into the feasibility of starting a National Women’s Soccer League franchise in Houston. While the move is far from final, the club is hoping to decide in the “next few weeks” on a move that would make them the second MLS organization, with the Portland Timbers who own the inaugural NWSL champions Thorns, to operate a women’s professional team.
“While the Dynamo are successful and girls can enjoy watching Brad Davis, Tally Hall and Bobby Boswell, there’s a different connection when a young girl watches a professional woman play,” Canetti told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday.
“The greater Houston area is a great market for girls and women’s soccer. We’re doing an internal evaluation about whether or not it’s something we can take on and makes good sense for our club.”
Gauging that market and its support will be the make-or-break decider on whether that move makes sense for the Dynamo. In the NWSL’s 2013 inaugural season, some teams, namely the Thorns, thrived while others struggled to bring in large crowds.
Canetti, who said it was still undecided whether Houston would shoot for an expansion team in 2014 or the following season, knows that diving into the soccer fan base, much of which the Dynamo have already cultivated, will be an important aspect of any potential women’s franchise.
“We really need to get a better understanding of how well this can be supported in the market,” Canetti said. “From season tickets to group tickets to sponsorships, we’re doing that research the best we can right now. It boils down to what is a reasonable expectation from a corporate support level and season ticket level, which is what we’re trying to determine.”
If the support from the community exists, the Dynamo know they have the infrastructure in place to operate a women's team: a downtown stadium, a training facility and the organizational support. Also, the club has a template in the Portland Thorns and Canetti says the Dynamo have already reached out to the Timbers for information.
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The US women's national team has enjoyed strong crowds in Houston, most recently in January 2012, when 15,643 showed up to watch the team play China at BBVA Compass Stadium. While that type of support may be far-fetched to expect on a regular basis at this time, if the Dynamo can hit on the right combination of star power and stability, Canetti feels there’s a place in the Houston market for women’s soccer.
“We’ve got a lot of big clubs around here and a lot of girls programs that are very successful. There’s a lot of work to do, to be honest,” Canetti said. “I’m personally hoping that our research plays out in a positive way and tells us this is a good opportunity to move forward with and we end up getting the support of our ownership group.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.