If you follow the NPSL, chances are that you’re familiar with Dallas City FC. Founded in 2013, the team has quickly amassed a loyal fan base in Dallas, a city whose community the team gives back to through the DCFC Foundation. What you may not know is that Dallas City’s reach goes beyond city borders.
In fact, Dallas City’s reach stretches well into other continents.
This is largely due to the work of Dallas City President Nicolas Ayala, who was born in the U.S., but grew up in Mexico. Ayala boasts an impressive soccer resume which includes studying at Real Madrid Graduate School and a stint working for FC Dallas. He tells us that his journey with Dallas City began when he saw a void in the city.
“FC Dallas plays in Frisco, which is outside of Dallas,” he says. “I saw that there was something missing here for the community.”
It was around this time that Ayala met Jacob Tuygun, Dallas City’s CEO. “We began with the idea of creating an academy, or a club, or something that would be right here in Dallas,” he says. “So we began to look into leagues and we decided on the NPSL.”
Upon joining the league, Ayala noticed that there was no local derby, so he and his partners decided that it might be a good idea to create one in collaboration with Fort Worth Vaqueros, a team located just 37 minutes away. This is how the Trinity River Cup was born; a two-legged affair intended to fill a need in the community, so named because of the river than connects Fort Worth and Dallas.
That the derby was created with Dallas’ community in mind is no surprise, especially given that Dallas City’s motto of “One City, One Team!” permeates through all facets of its operations. It was this same desire to serve the local community that led to the creation of the DCFC Foundation.
“We decided to create this [DCFC Foundation] because we get a lot of invitations to community events where we do non-profit work like offer free soccer clinics and give little gifts to children,” says Ayala. “The truth is that this is how we have become well-known in the community. We are at all kinds of community events.”
Ayala tells us that occasionally the team runs into FC Dallas at community events, but that the two teams have a very good relationship, perhaps a result of his time working there. “Our academies always have friendlies against each other,” he says. “In fact, right now one of our goalkeepers is training with FC Dallas’ first team.”
The goalkeeper Ayala is referring to is Miguel Ibarra. But Ibarra isn’t the only player to garner attention during his time at Dallas City. Following the team’s first season, players Moises Orozco and Gustavo Lozano departed for the Armenian First Division and Mexico’s Ascenso MX division, respectively. Last year, Jesus ‘Chuy’ García signed with Liga MX’s Chiapas FC.
While some teams might bemoan the loss of key players to bigger clubs, this is not the case with Dallas City. “We noticed in the beginning that there were many young players, those between 18 and 23, that were basically left without a club. They didn’t go to college and there was no real platform for them,” says Ayala. “So when we created the club we said ‘okay, maybe our club can help these kids who were left behind but have talent so that they too can have a chance and go somewhere’.”
This desire to provide a platform for young players led Dallas City to seek partnerships with other clubs, something has become one of Dallas City’s most impressive endeavors. In what is essentially a global initiative, the club has partnered with teams in four different countries. Chiapas FC, a growing club seeking to “make noise in the U.S.” as Ayala puts it, was Dallas City’s first partner.
“They [Jaguares] contacted me and we began talks of making a partnership where players would benefit,” he says. “We can send players there and they send players here in an interchange, allowing them to experience a different environment.”
The partnership with Jaguares was followed by partnerships with Altinordu SK of the Turkish Second Division, with Alianza FC of El Salvador’s first division, and finally Turkspor Augsburg, a lower division German team. Given Dallas’ large Hispanic population, it makes sense that the team partnered with teams in Mexico and El Salvador in order to attract larger crowds. But Dallas City’s other partnerships have also yielded results.
“In Dallas the Turkish population is small, but there are people from a Turkish community nearby that come to the matches. We also visit community centers in that area,” says Ayala. “In fact, we’ve had a few players who were of Turkish origin.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Dallas City’s Director of Coaching, Rahim Zafer, is a former Turkish national player whose career included a six-year stint with soccer powerhouse Beşiktaş. Ayala believes that the fact that both he and his partners come from such different cultural backgrounds has led to them having a “global” vision when it comes to their approach to the team and to the sport.
“This sport is one of the few that is – how should I say – global. In other words, the whole world plays it, the whole world understands it, the whole world watches it… and I believe that because of this vision that we have and how we manage the club, it actually transfers onto the field.”
The facts seem to back Ayala, as Dallas City has had players in its roster from Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Senegal, and even Zimbabwe. But while the team is obviously having an impact that is far reaching, Ayala says that Dallas City is just doing its small part when it comes to helping soccer grow in the U.S.
“We believe in this country, obviously there’s a reason why we’re here. With this club we are trying to chip in our little grain of sand so that soccer can keep growing here, and we do it with a lot of passion and a lot of dedication so that everything works out well and ultimately the fans and the players are the ones who reap the benefits.”