A semi-pro soccer club based in Richardson has been scouted by a professional league looking to take one of its teams to the next level.

Lone Star Republic, which includes five men’s teams and a future women’s team, is a Division 1 soccer club currently competing within the United Premier Soccer League, according to founder and CEO Tyler Watterson, who is also the starting goalkeeper for the club’s top team.

A professional league approached Lone Star Republic in January with an offer to make the club its flagship team in Texas. Due to the conditions of a nondisclosure agreement, Watterson is unable to confirm the name of the league.

“The professional league that reached out to us did it because they thought our name, our website and our social media was enough to attract a multimillionaire investor,” he said.

Lone Star Republic was slated to make its professional debut in 2021; however, the coronavirus has hindered its ability to nail down an investor willing to pitch in the $10 million required by the league.

“We had gotten to the point where we were giving pitch presentations to potential investors, and we had plenty of people who were interested in investing large sums of money, just not enough to meet that specific requirement,” he said.

The pandemic has served to re-energize the club’s ambitions of going pro. It is not lost on Watterson that an investment of this magnitude will be an even harder sell in a post-coronavirus economy.

“Every ounce of effort we were putting in pre-COVID has doubled or tripled post-COVID,” he said. “Whatever investment value we were going to give someone for their money before, we are now going to have to give more value for the same amount of money.”

Club history

Lone Star Republic has seen dramatic growth since its inception in 2012. Formerly known as Gunners FC, the club was part of the North Texas Premier Soccer Association but has since severed ties and joined the Dallas Soccer Alliance, a local amateur league that plays in MoneyGram Soccer Park in northwest Dallas.

Upon joining the club in 2015, Watterson launched an aggressive recruiting effort that has led to a roster of more than 100 adult players.

“I was able to identify certain people that were of a certain age and skill level,” he said. “Then I would email them and pretend like we were way more serious than we were.”

Lone Star Republic made a comeback in fall 2015 after several last-place finishes in previous seasons. This was the impetus for its rise to success, Watterson said.

“We just kept getting promoted, kept winning championships and then worked our way up nearly to the top of the Sunday League,” he said. “It has just explored from there.”

In early 2019, Watterson landed former FC Dallas and Atlanta United player Zach Loyd as the coach of its top team.

“I told [Zach] straight up that I probably wasn’t going to be able to pay him for a long time, but we have hilarious jerseys, and I think we have a good thing going on,” Watterson said. “It did not take very long for him to say yes.”

The addition of Loyd was probably the most pivotal moment in the club’s journey to going pro, Watterson said.

“We’ve gotten way more out of him than I ever expected,” he said. “He has been incredibly generous to the organization and really believes in what we are doing.”

Loyd’s wife, Casey, also a former professional soccer player, joined the club as coach of the women’s team, which was set to launch in the spring but has been delayed due to COVID-19.

A highly satirical digital presence has served to heighten the club’s visibility in recent years, Watterson said. YouTube videos of games are edited to remove goals made by the opposing, and post-game graphics for losing games are edited to remove the winning team’s score.

“The low-level soccer world is incredibly petty,” Watterson said. “We try to lean into that pettiness that everyone seems to have ... because I find it hilarious.”

The club’s signature hashtag is #MLS2DAL2040, which Watterson said is a nod to Major League Soccer’s tendency of giving its newest teams a three-letter hashtag upon joining the league.

“I went ahead and claimed it for us so that MLS can’t do it in the future,” he said. “If MLS ever tried to move into Dallas without it being us, they’re going to have a serious problem.”

The club’s spring season, which would have served as Lone Star Republic’s introduction into Division 1 of the United Premier Soccer League, was derailed by COVID-19, Watterson said. Games at the semi-pro level are set to resume in September.

What's next

The club is still hopeful that it can go pro in 2021 and is looking to relaunch its search for an investor.

“We’re ready and willing to give a presentation on a dime,” he said.

Loyd has assembled a coaching team of former professional players who are ready to get to work once Lone Star Republic is accepted into the league, Watterson said.

The team’s annual budget is projected to be about $3 million, Watterson said. Through ticket sales, sponsorship revenue, TV rights and merchandise, the club hopes to one day be profitable.

The city of Richardson has expressed interest in bringing a professional team to the city, Watterson said. The club is in the midst of sketching designs for a stadium and indoor sports facility that it plans to present to city staff.

“Richardson, more than any other area, lacks in soccer fields,” he said. “So it’s also the kind of place where we could have the biggest impact.”

For more information on Lone Star Republic, visit this link.