Soccer, or football/futbol for the purists, has had a long-standing relationship with the Rio Grande Valley. Living rooms and bars alike are often packed to the brim during highly-anticipated matches between the best teams in the world. Children, teens and adults can often be seen emulating their favorite stars in parks and even streets across the Valley.

Yet when professional soccer teams have moved into our region, hoping to harness our unmitigated love for soccer, they’re almost-immediately sent packing due to countless complications. However, things seem to be going very right this time around as the region prepares to welcome its new professional soccer team: the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros.

A Promising Approach

The United Soccer League (USL) – a third tier division in the American soccer pyramid – has been growing steadily since its inception in 2010 and its partnership with Major League Soccer (MLS). Now, the Rio Grande Valley is part of the growth after the region was awarded the league’s 25th franchise on July 15, 2015.

“This is the Rio Grande Valley’s team. This is a hot-bed for soccer, and this now gives players here something to aspire to,” said Jake Edwards, president of the USL.

But how is this team’s future looking any different than our region’s not-so-lucky and now-extinct teams, such as the Rio Grande Valley Bravos and Rio Grande Valley Grandes?

To start things off, the new team is owned by Alonzo Cantu, one of our region’s most successful entrepreneurs, who also happens to own the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, two-time winners of the NBA D-League title. With a single-partnership affiliation agreement with the Houston Rockets, a revolving door of NBA-quality players and a reputation as one of the best in the league, the Vipers have gained the success no other professional sports teams in the area have reached.

Now, with a similar partnership with the Houston Dynamo, two-time winners of the MLS Cup, RGV FC is expected to do the same.

“We carry quite a bit of good weight on us with the partnership with the Houston Dynamo, and we’ve got to make the Valley proud and them proud about how we run our business,” said RGV FC’s Bert Garcia.

This partnership means Houston will take charge of the tactical side of the club, with tasks such as selecting players and coaches, while the ownership will be responsible for operation.

Playing in Stoppage Time

Although the USL season kicks off in a little over three months, the process to get the Toros out of the bullpen in time for the season is in full motion. The 9,400-seat stadium expected to be the team’s home is currently under construction at what once was Super Splash Water Park.

But who will be leading the team, you ask? On December 2nd, RGV FC unveiled Wilmer Cabrera as the head coach of the Toros. During a press conference at Lone Star National Bank, the former US U-17 and Chivas USA head coach expressed his delight with getting to work with our area’s players.

“Over here, you don’t need to encourage the players to play soccer because they already want to play soccer. When you don’t have to encourage your kids to play, that’s a plus,” said Cabrera.

While the excitement and anticipation surrounding the team is overflowing, Cabrera is fully aware that a project of this magnitude will take time to find its stride. After all, a whole team has to be built in the little time there is before the start of the USL season.

“Remember, this is new. This is brand new,” Cabrera said. “Can we do that in one day or one month? No, it’s going to take time.”