It’s a cruel but true fact: Out of the thousands of young soccer players in Southeast Texas, a miniscule number will ever make it to experience the bright lights, big stadiums and big pay checks of professional soccer. But rest assured, there are a lot of talented players in the region hoping to get their shot in the big time and to understand what I’m talking about, you need only take in a Galveston Pirates SC (soccer club) match sometime.
The Pirates, members of the Texas Premier Soccer League (TPSL), play their home matches at Weis Middle School on the island. The semi-pro team is comprised largely of young players trying to hone their skills in order to make it to the professional ranks. Owned and coached by former pro player Brendan Keyes, who also happens to be the founder/owner of the TPSL, the Galveston Pirates have a proud and storied history.
“The Pirates originally started in 1916 and a have a great history,” said Keyes, a Dublin, Ireland native who’s lived in the U.S. for nearly 28 years. “That team lasted about 10 years, but the Pirates came back in the 1970s and again lasted about 10 years ago before going away. I brought the team back in 2010 as a member of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), and we had an amazing season that first year when we won our division.”
The Pirates conclude the 2013-’14 season this Saturday with a game in Bryan at the home stadium of the BCS Bearkatz FC, but the team will conduct open tryouts for experienced players looking to take the first step toward becoming a full professional player. Keyes, who also owns the TPSL’s Houston Hurricanes FC, says tryouts for both clubs are scheduled for late April. The league’s schedule runs from September through March and, in addition to the Pirates, Hurricanes and Bearkatz, the TPSL roster includes the Regals Soccer Club (Houston), the Houston Dutch Lions FC, Houston Leones FC and the Lockhart Knights.
The 2013-’14 season has not been a good one for the Pirates, as the TPSL website lists them in last place in the Premier Division with a record of 1-7-1, but Keyes, who gave up coaching duties this season, will return to the bench next season, albeit reluctantly, in an attempt to reverse the club’s fortunes.
“I am the sole owner of the TPSL and there are no investors. Owning two teams and the league is a lot of work, so I’m looking for a qualified coach to take over,” Keyes said. “But I felt it was important for me to take over the coaching again to get the team back on solid ground.”
Keyes played professionally in the ‘90s for a previous incarnation of the Houston Hurricanes and is a national level and Olympic development coach, and says running a semi-pro team is certainly not an easy endeavor, what with having to cover travel expenses, player salaries, marketing and a host of associated costs. He estimates most TPSL teams have a yearly operating budget of about $40,000, covered largely by sponsorship agreements. Most TPSL players make around $400 per game, although some clubs are able to pay a little more.
“Players in our league come from all over, really, except Europe,” he said. “For European players, the money is in Europe, but America has come a long way in soccer. Texas has, too, with the Major League Soccer (MLS) team (Houston Dynamo) here and there are a lot of good players coming out of this area now.”
Keyes says the TPSL expects to grow to 12 teams in the 2014-’15 season and he has big plans to improve the profile of the league and the Pirates.
“The team must get marketed properly,” he says. “We now have Marc Roseblade working with the Pirates and the league and he’s a marketing genius. We have to get the Pirates name out there more. We’ve also got to put a good product on the field and work to get Galveston to back the team like the city used to.”
If you think you’ve got the right stuff and would like to participate in the April tryouts, or if you’d like to discuss coaching opportunities with the Pirates, contact Keyes at email@example.com or call 832-748-1001, but he stresses only serious inquiries from credentialed, professional coaches will be considered.