UPSL’s Texas Spurs FC Born of Passion and Purpose
The growth of the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) is a remarkable example of the popularity of soccer in America. Here is another American Soccer Spotlight on a small men’s soccer team in the UPSL.
The day was February, 7th 1996. The inaugural Major League Soccer (MLS) draft was on its second day of drafting from a pool of players to join the league’s original ten teams. That’s when a voice came over the microphone. With the 143rd pick in the inaugural Major League Soccer Draft, the Dallas Burn select, Ed Puskarich.
That was over 20 years ago now. The crazy part is, it wasn’t getting drafted to play at America’s highest level of competition that highlights Puskarich’s career.
It was his journey to that day, and everything he has accomplished since, that really puts the stamp on life.
Ed Puskarich was born in Dallas, Texas, and like most professional athletes, began playing soccer once he was old enough to walk. A gifted athlete, Puskarich would actually go on to play both soccer and football at Southern Methodist University before embarking on a professional soccer career.
From 1984 – the year after the North American Soccer League folded – to 2003, Puskarich played both indoor and outdoor soccer professionally for thirteen teams across seven different leagues. The most notable during that time span was from 1989 to 1995 where Puskarich would go on to net 54 goals in 181 appearances for the Chicago Power of the American Indoor Soccer Association and the National Professional Soccer League.
After one year playing in MLS, and enduring a knee injury playing at the Rose Bowl, Puskarich had decided it was time to hang up his cleats at the MLS level. He did not retire until 2003, and along the way, he endured four knee operations but kept playing in smaller leagues, all while coaching with the Dallas Burn.
While he was able to coach at the likes of Aurora University, Ohio Dominican University, Capital University, and North Central College during his playing days, Puskarich had transitioned into a full-time assistant coaching role for the Dallas Burn. He served in that role until the year 2000, but over those four years, his focus began to shift elsewhere, and that’s when the Texas Spurs were born.
The Texas Spurs were founded in 1999 by Puskarich himself and he has been the one and only Director of Coaching from the first day in 2000, however, the club didn’t originally go by that name.
“When I first took the team over it was the Tottenham Hotspurs, and I’m a Liverpool fan,” said Puskarich with a laugh. “There was no way I was going to have the name Tottenham Hotspurs. Being in Texas, with everyone having spurs on the back of their cowboy boots, it made sense to go with the name Texas Spurs.”
The club’s crest? Well, that needed some re-branding as well. “When we first got together, our old President had decided on a crest that resembled that of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs,” added Puskarich. “I decided to design it differently with a soccer ball and a cowboy boot with the spur behind it, hence the Texas Spurs.”
With a new name and a new crest, the Texas Spurs became one of the premier youth programs in the state of Texas, but it hasn’t always been easy. “There is a massive competition here for players with North Texas and Southern California being the two largest soccer hotbeds in the country for youth soccer,” added Puskarich. “Dallas is a pretty big youth hotbed and player movement has always been a challenge and is something we have to deal with in this area.”
While there may be massive competition in the Dallas area, it’s not a challenge Puskarich backs away from. “It’s one of the best places to play in the country, so we have our kids sign 12-month contracts and provide them a 12-month calendar stacked with league play, tournaments, training, events, and activities.”
Puskarich also noted that the way he runs his club provides an edge over the competition. “I run a pretty disciplined professional organization.
“I feel success is a byproduct, so at Tesas Spurs we always try to do things the right way.”Ed Puskarich
“We provide a safe, competitive environment and keep our players as long as we can,” said Puskarich.
While the majority of the 2000s was spent as one of the premier youth organizations in Texas, the end of the decade saw the club progress into the ranks of adult amateur soccer.
In 2008, the Texas Spurs had officially entered a team to play in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL), a semi-professional women’s soccer league that is the largest women’s soccer league in the world.
The club would spend the next ten years having both premier youth teams and the semi-professional women’s team competing competitively. Then Puskarich decided to take yet another step forward, this time into the world of amateur men’s soccer. The Spurs joined seven other teams in the inaugural season of the United Premier Soccer League’s Central Conference, playing in the North Division. Over 20 teams throughout three divisions joined the conference that season, all from Texas.
Playing professionally for so many years himself, Puskarich could see nothing but the potential in the UPSL model.
“It’s cost-effective first of all, which is really unique,” said Puskarich.
“UPSL has a promotion and relegation system which every soccer person is longing for in this country.”Ed Puskarich
“The UPSL gives the kids a chance to chase their dreams, it gives us as franchise owners and coaches a chance to provide as professional an organization as we can,” said Puskarich.
While Puskarich had been spending the past 40 years playing, coaching and directing soccer, it’s what he has been doing this entire time while not on the soccer pitch that he truly holds close to heart. “Back then, players didn’t make nearly what they are making nowadays,” said Puskarich. “I needed a way to make money while doing something I would enjoy, that’s when I came up with Stars ’N Stripes International Tours.”
Founded in 1987, Ed states that Stars ‘n Stripes provides an opportunity for young serious soccer players to travel the world in a professional setting while being coached by professionals. It is not a vacation tour, but rather an experience of a lifetime he says. Players are selected on talent, commitment, and potential regardless of their financial background. A successful fundraising program assists each player is chasing his or her dream of playing soccer abroad!
As for the future? Puskarich has his eyes on expansion. “I want to expand with UPSL franchises in New Mexico, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh,” added Ed. “I like the UPSL model. I have contacts and friendships in those areas where I think we can help soccer grow and develop. I am going to keep my club here in the Dallas area relatively small. I believe in the ‘quality over quantity’ model and most of my coaches have either played for me in the past or are currently playing for me, and I like that small family feeling to our organization.”