Story by DANNY MOGLE / Photos by SCHUYLER WICK
Christopher Avila is bringing professional soccer to East Texas. The Tyler FC Kings will make its debut in the National Premier Soccer League in May.
Avila, a Tyler, Texas, native who played one season with Dallas FC, is the team’s president and general manager. He competed at Bishop Thomas K. Gorman and then Robert E. Lee high schools in Tyler. Later he played in Mexico for San Luis Potosi U-21 and at Richland College and Thomas University in Georgia.
During his pro season at Dallas FC, Avila began thinking about starting a team in Tyler.
“I started doing some research on what I needed in order to make this dream a reality and I got to work,” Avila says. “I believe we have the proper demographics (to attract players and fans) and I also believe Tyler has been waiting for something like this for a long time.”
It took eight months for Avila to get everything needed to apply for an expansion team.
“It’s very special to have one of our former players start their own club in the NPSL,” League Chairman Joe Barone said in announcing the new team. “We know that Tyler FC will help raise the level of competition in the region. It’s an amazing time for our fans and supporters in the Lone Star State. ”
The Kings will have 26 players and use the Brook Hill High School field as its home field. The season runs from May through July.
“East Texas is truly a diamond in the rough for soccer talent,” says Avila, noting that the region consistently has champion teams and top players on the high school and college levels.
Beto Ortega, head of the Mexican Soccer League in Tyler, oversees player development.
“Beto is a man who is very well known and respected in the Hispanic community and especially in the soccer community,” Avila says. “He has had an extensive career as a pro soccer player in Mexico and has worked with and been coached by some soccer idols.”
Avila plans on also fielding a semi-pro indoor soccer team during the winter season.
“We would like to have high-level soccer year round, for the best interest in our players and for the city of Tyler. I plan on naming it the Tyler FC Indoor Kings to build off of what we already have and to grow the franchise.”
Avila doesn’t believe that the Kings will have trouble attracting fans.
“Soccer is the purest and loveliest sport. I believe we will be able to attract fans because soccer is the sport of the world.”
He says many cities all over the world have either a professional soccer team or a team in a soccer league.
Avila also plans to launch a soccer academy.
“Most, if not all, clubs around the world have an academy (school of soccer) that develops young players into the athletes. … The Tyler FC academy’s goal will be to get our academy team players into a university on a scholarship.”
He wants to create a companion program called TFC Ministries to bring team members into churches for meals and ministry so that church leaders could “say a few words of inspiration and motivation to our young men.”
The program would be a way for people to get to know the players, he says.
“Soccer is my one true love,” adds Avila. “I have lived the game my entire life and it has given me friendships and experiences from around the world. I want others from Tyler to experience what I have and to travel around Texas, the U.S and the world all because of the sport they love.
“We want to help the young men become professionals all around, not solely speaking about soccer, but in their personal lives as well.”