When casual soccer fans think of MLS, a few big clubs come to mind. The likes of the LA Galaxy, the Seattle Sounders, and now even New York City FC chief among them, each for their own distinct reasons. The Galaxy have become renowned for their stars, NYC for their connection to Premier League club Manchester City, and the Sounders for their crowd.
While these three clubs have clearly established a footprint, you’d be hard pressed to find a casual sports fan who is wild about FC Dallas. However, of all teams in MLS, FC Dallas seems the most poised to dominate the league long-term.
While teams like the Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls poured their money into bringing in passed-their-prime European stars like David Beckham and Thierry Henry, many times in the hopes of selling more tickets, FC Dallas took a very different approach. The Dallas front office realized that while a star like Henry or Beckham could bring an influx of tickets and fans into the club, ultimately it was not a sustainable model for producing the best talent for the club long-term. Thus, FC Dallas decided to invest that money into their academy.
The results probably evolved FC Dallas beyond the front office’s wildest dreams, as the FCD academy began producing the best talent the United States has to offer. To date, FC Dallas has produced seven homegrown players, more than any American side in MLS. Additionally, the quality has been incredible, as Dallas started an MLS record five homegrown players in a 3-0 victory against Columbus Crew on September 6, which helped propel them to the top of the Western Conference. With all their homegrown talent in tow, Dallas marched forward to the playoffs, looking to win their first MLS Cup.
However, it’s not just the academy that has gotten FC Dallas to this point. With the combination of manager Oscar Pareja and technical director Fernando Clavijo in their front office, Dallas was able to raid the various leagues of South America and find some of the best bargains MLS. While not one player on the Dallas roster makes above $400,000, the team has been able to sign some incredible players.
Colombian internationals Fabian Castillo and Michael Barrious have been fantastic on the wings, while Argentinian Mauro Diaz has provided creativity in the middle. In his South American attacking trio, Oscar Pareja has truly built one of the most devastating combinations of forwards in the entire league.
In fact, Castillo has been the standout of the bunch, earning the No. 1 spot on MLS’ yearly 24 under 24 rankings. He has terrorized opposing wing backs all season, using his blinding speed, incredible cutting ability, and clinical finishing to catapult to the top of MLS. His play has earned him call ups to the Colombian national team, as well as transfer interest from Europe, with some speculating that Castillo could beat out Jozy Altidore for the highest MLS transfer fee of all time. Whether they sell him or not, no one will argue the incredible value FC Dallas have gotten out of Castillo.
With a bevy of international bargains and academy players anchoring one of the clubs with the lowest payroll in MLS, it’s hard to argue against the success of FC Dallas. As they look toward the Western Conference final against Portland, a matchup where they are favored, the founding group that built this club from scratch can’t help but get excited. However, it’s worth noting that this is just the beginning for FC Dallas, and with a team this young, FCD could dominate MLS for decades to come.