Austin based Capital City SC poised for big opportunity as new MLS NEXT member
By Sean Maslin
SoccerWire Staff Writer
One call. For Capital City Soccer Club, after years of working hard to develop its strong presence in the thriving Austin youth soccer community, their world was changed by one call from MLS NEXT informing them that they would be joining the league in the 2023-2024 season.
Capital City SC is one of nine new clubs that have been accepted into MLS NEXT, and they are among only three that received full acceptance across all six age groups.
“I got a phone call about two weeks ago from the new [Major League Soccer Next] General Manager Justin [Bokmeyer]. To be honest with you I was very, very excited,” said Capital City SC Technical Director Kai Gockell. “We didn’t expect it to happen. We have been working on this for three years now but we’re still a small club. So after we received the message that we were in I asked him, ‘How many teams do you want?’ He said straight away, ‘You are going to get the whole division’ which blew my mind. So we are super excited and we have been waiting patiently for the press release to come out.”
Founded as a semi-professional indoor soccer league team in 2018, Capital City Soccer Club has quickly emerged as one of the top youth soccer clubs in the state of Texas. In just a short amount of time the club has earned Texas State Championships, made multiple appearances in the Dallas Cup and US Youth Soccer Regional Championships, and has won the US Youth Soccer National League Frontier Conference. That success has led to growth starting out with about 350 players in 2019 to 800-900 players this season across the U9-U19 age groups.
Although the club has seen marked success quickly in a difficult landscape the focus has always remained the same: on the players, their families and the club community.
“I think we have provided our parents and families a refreshing feel than what the Austin soccer landscape was used to,” said Gockell. “Where the market in the past was dominated by fear and pressure we have embraced a mindset with our players and our parents where we treat them like human beings. I think that is one of the things that has really separated us.”
“Our club likes to focus on the human aspect of how we treat our families and players,” said Executive Director Patrick Miller. “We don’t have an overarching motivation of fear. So we are not stressed, if our teams are not doing well. Of course we love to win and we want to win as much as we can. But I feel like in other clubs, if you’re not getting results you kind of have the fear of being fired or moved on.”
“We are in a market that is a little bit cutthroat but we do our best not carry ourselves that way,” he elaborated. “So I think because we have given our players that comfort and freedom the confidence on the field to perform.”
That confidence and space that has give players to play their best has led the side to multiple major college commitments into Division 1, 2, 3, and NAIA college programs. Alumni Nikola Djordjevic, who was named to the AAC All-Rookie Team last season for Southern Methodist University. The side also annually runs a college combine which annually attracts about 25 colleges each year. In addition, the side has also seen multiple players from their system join Austin FC’s youth academy system.
“I think that definitely did not go unnoticed,” said Miller when talking about the recruitment process into MLS NEXT. “I think that definitely played well for us and we have said we are still open and willing to pass those players along even though we are now in MLS NEXT.”
While the news of joining MLS NEXT is major news for the Capital City SC and there is still a lot of work to be done ahead of their first season in the league, the focus still remains on all members of their community. This includes communication to families whose players may not make the MLS NEXT squad.
“We want to make sure that we are highly focused on the players that are not going to be in MLS NEXT,” said Miller. “It is such a small fraction of our membership across the club so we want to make the message clear that this a very high platform and that we will have a diligent tryout process. No spots are guaranteed and everyone has to tryout and earn this opportunity. We are also going to do our due diligence forming these teams to make them as competitive as possible. However, if a player does not make the MLS NEXT team, we want all of our players and families to know that we are going to continue to work hard to fulfill their needs as well.”
Getting into MLS NEXT will certainly provide Capital City SC the opportunity to develop more players at a higher level. But it will also give them the opportunity to further their goal of providing a space for players to learn and grow as people.