Challenge Soccer Club, Inc., a 501 C3, not for Profit Corporation, was founded in 1987 by Jim Huston and Bob Lyons, two successful Houston business men. They each had a passion for the game of soccer and their daughters excelled at a sport that had virtually no high end competitive opportunities in the Houston area. They founded an all-girl’s competitive club which met with a roaring success and quickly gained notoriety in the greater Houston area and State. The daughters, Kim, Chris, Cara, Carla and Caren went on to play collegiate soccer at Virginia, UNC, Duke, Arkansas and LSU respectively, as did many of their teammates. So it began; with 3 teams and a vision on a collision course with the explosive growth of girl’s soccer in Houston, Texas and the Country.
The Club’s founding goals and principles were simple; provide motivated female athletes the opportunity to develop their skills to the fullest extent possible, provide top flight professional instruction, experienced coaching in a positive yet challenging environment and do what is in the best interest of our players. This formula has proven successful year over year and continues to guide our Club.
During the ensuing years, Challenge met with great success, growing steadily to complete a roster of Division I teams, from Under 11 to 18. The Club trained and operated in the Klein area and became affiliated with Klein Soccer Club using Meyer Park as our training base. The program saw teams dominate in local play and began to attain Regional and National recognition. In 1993, the Club made a pivotal decision and hired the energetic and motivated duo of Pat O’Toole and Dave “Smitty” Smith as the sole trainers for the Club. This proved to be a defining moment for the Club, resulting in more focus, consistency in the training environment and continued success on the field.
Challenge recognized the need to expand training facilities to accommodate Club growth and the rapid population growth North of Houston to Spring, The Woodlands, Tomball and Magnolia areas. In 1994, the Club began working with Harris County, Precinct 4 to develop soccer facilities at Burroughs Park, starting with one field. Today, Burroughs has been expanded to 7 full size fields, 3 training fields with concessions and is one of the premier soccer facilities in the area. Plans are underway to expand Burroughs to 10 fields and 2 additional small sided fields.
Success on the pitch may be the measuring stick, but player development has been the passion. It was not unusual in years gone by for Challenge teams to play up an age group, play in the boy’s league or enter boy’s tournaments. Challenge started the annual College Classic tournament that brought top NCAA teams like UNC, Notre Dame, Texas, Duke and Texas A&M to play at Meyer Park. This effort provided Houston youth players the opportunity to watch and learn from the best teams and players in the country. NCAA scheduling conflicts forced the Club to abandon the Classic in 2004, but in 2008 hosted an exhibition between Texas and LSU and continues to seek opportunities for youth players.
Challenge has since grown to become a nationally prominent soccer club consisting of 60+ teams and some 1000 players and families. The teams have been anchored by local talent in the Spring/Woodlands area, but the Club’s success and soccer’s popularity brought players from around greater Houston to the Club. The commitment of our families and players has been outstanding as many travel from as far as College Station, Kingwood, Katy, Sugar Land, and the Clear Lake area to train at Meyer Park. Our players range in age from 9 to 18 years of age and play at the highest level their respective abilities will allow. The various teams now participate in the top leagues as well as travel to the most competitive tournaments from coast to coast throughout the year. The Challenge Academy Program has grown to over 200 players in the U7 through U10 age groups.
In the Spring of 2007, the Club was approached to expand their soccer success to South Houston/Clear Lake area and began with two Division I level girl’s teams. In one year’s time the number of teams had grown to eleven and an alliance was forged with the Quest Soccer Club to be the competitive option for girls in the La Porte, Deer Park and Pasadena communities.
Challenge takes great pride in the professional coaches and volunteers that have contributed to the Club’s success. We have been fortunate to maintain continuity in our training staff, evidenced by Pat O’Toole, our Director of Training, who has become one of the most recognized spokespersons for youth soccer in the community and country. Pat an “A” licensed professional, has been with Challenge since inception and has served on State and Regional ODP Staff over the years. The Challenge professional staff has grown to 10 licensed trainers most of whom have also been involved with ODP at various levels. Several of our current and previous staff have also coached in the women’s collegiate game.
Challenge enjoys a premier partnership with adidas, Texas Sports Medicine Center and Gatorade and is considered to be one of the top girl’s soccer clubs in the country. Soccer America has ranked Challenge in the top 30 girls clubs in the U.S., 4 of the 6 years in which rankings occurred, most recently in 2008. The Club enjoys an enviable record of State and Regional Championship teams and has sent teams to the National Championships on 14 occasions. In fact, Challenge had 7 State Champions in their respective age groups in 2007. In 2008 we garnered 4 State Championships and our Challenge 89 team was a Regional Champion and represented Challenge and South Texas at Nationals. Over the years, some 450 of our graduating seniors have received collegiate scholarship opportunities as a result of their affiliation and exposure with Challenge. Many of our players have gained additional notoriety in the Olympic Development Program and have achieved State, Regional, and National team status in their age groups. Several of our recent alumni, have played professionally with WUSA and another played in the Women’s World Cup for the Mexican National Team. Both the current UH and Rice Women’s collegiate soccer head coaches are Challenge alumni.
The Club has played host to numerous prestigious soccer events over the years and has founded the nationally prominent Texas Shootout Invitational Tournament. The Shootout is one of the top college recruiting venues in the country and in June, 2008, saw over 350 top club teams from across the nation and over 370 college coaches in attendance. Challenge has hosted the USYS Adidas Cup 3 times, which featured international women’s play with U16-U17 teams from the likes of Japan, China, Australia, Canada and the U.S. Challenge has also been the host to The IV Soccer Tournament played in conjunction and with NCAA Women’s Final IV at College Station in 2005, 2007 and will again in 2009.
The Challenge Soccer Club is a restless band of motivated players, supportive parents, determined and dedicated professional coaches and volunteers, singularly focused on creating a challenging, exciting, productive and rewarding future for women’s youth soccer in the greater Houston area.