Club Feature: FC Austin Elite
The exponential growth of women's soccer in recent years has been remarkable. Among the clubs leading the charge at the grassroots level in the United States is FC Austin Elite (UWS). We sat down with General Manager Danny Woodfill to learn more about the club.
Every club has an origin story, what's FC Austin Elite's?
About seven years ago, I was talking with my high school aged daughter and she was lamenting that she only had 6 more years of soccer left to play, IN HER LIFE. After all of the youth soccer and being halfway into her high school career, this sounded really weird to me. As a guy, we will often play into our twenties and often our thirties with the belief if just one scout saw us, we could move to USL maybe MLS but at least NPSL/PDL. Girls don't think this way. It is not a possibility for them. They know they can go as far as college, but it stops abruptly there. When I figured this out, I did some research and found that real options didn't really exist, so I set out to create some real options for girls to grow up to be women footballers.
Where do you draw talent from?
Austin is rich in talent. The youth scene has been owned by one club for a while and they produce good players, but we noticed there were a lot of good players coming from the other youth programs too. In the beginning, we looked to all of the local colleges D1, D2, D3, NAIA for players who would be in Austin during the summer. We found a lot of great players. As we have grown, so has our reach. Now we try to recruit the best post-college players in the country for our top team. We want to have the best pro and pro-ready players available while creating a place for the best college players on our U-23 summer team. This year, we decided to reach out to high school age players to get them involved in our U20 program too. This gives us the best pool of players and allows us to follow our mission of providing more opportunities for women to play soccer.
Your club plays in the Southwest Conference of the UWS, what should we know about the teams in the conference and level of competition?
The UWS and the Southwest Conference specifically has an extremely high level of play. Because of the geographic differences across the state, we have a very wide difference in the style of play too, so you can't just be the best at possession soccer, you have to be the best team period in order to win. Fortunately for us, we are still growing the teams in the Southwest Conference, so it gives us the ability to bring in other great teams that can make an immediate impact. Additionally, with the start of UWS League 2 in Texas, we have the ability to bring in teams that might not quite be ready for our prime time and allow them to grow and be promoted in the future, but without breaking the bank to begin with.
The popularity of women's soccer has skyrocketed in recent years. This year, NWSL TV ratings increased by almost 500%, what impact do you think that this could have on women's soccer in the US?
I believe we are at the very beginning of the wave of women's soccer. We've been playing for the last 6 years and while enthusiasm has been growing the whole time, you can feel the swell starting to grow faster. I think that all women's soccer ships are rising if their ownership groups are paying attention to the changes.
Last year, FC Austin Elite had the opportunity to play a home match at Bold Stadium, home of USL Championship club Austin Bold FC. Can you tell us about your experience?
This was an incredible experience for the club, fans, and community all around. We had more than 1200 fans come to our game at Bold Stadium over the fourth of July weekend. It was an amazing game against our chief rival, San Antonio Athenians, and was a lot of fun. But it doesn't stop there for us, we want that game to be our norm and we are working very hard to make that happen in 2021.
In 2020, FC Austin Elite launched a Reserve Team and a U-20 Team in the brand-new UWS League Two. What do you hope to accomplish through these new teams?
These teams are truly key to our mission. We want to get more women playing soccer and honestly, we can't do that with just one team. We have the infrastructure and capability to do more, so we have the obligation to do more. Additionally, starting these teams helps us build on our plans for the future.
What does the future hold for FC Austin Elite?
Our team is now made up entirely of post-college players. This gives us the ability to start playing a year-round season and to do more professional things with our top team while still allowing for the development of the best college players on our U-23 team. We truly want to be a leader in women's soccer in the US and we are pushing ahead.
Anything else we should know about the club?
In addition to growing our club, we are happy to help other clubs get off the ground or grow their game. Just in the last two weeks, we have spoken with almost ten teams from coast to coast about starting or growing their women's program. We are happy to help grow the Soccer Sisterhood.
We'd like to thank Danny for his time! To keep up with FC Austin Elite, make sure to check out their website and follow them on social media!
Twitter - @FCAustinElite
Instagram - @fcaustinelite
Website - www.fcaustinelite.com