AUSTIN, Texas - FC Austin Elite is a women’s soccer team playing in the United Women’s Soccer League. The club is entering its eighth season in the capital of Texas. Yet, many still don’t know the football club even exists. General Manager Danny Woodfill is on a mission to change that and to empower women’s sports as a whole.
Woodfill started as the club’s Operations Manager but assumed the role of GM just a year after the club was started. Since then, he’s been doing everything he can to make FC Austin Elite a team that helps promote women’s sports and creates one-of-a-kind opportunities for its athletes.
You might not think the GM of a sports team would be out at practices helping shag balls and assisting coaches, but Woodfill is not your typical GM.
"We’re a small operation, we don’t have hundreds of people doing the job here, literally everybody’s helping out. So, shagging the balls, you do what you need to do," Woodfill said. "And I think for everyone, for me to be out here as a General Manager shagging balls, pumping balls up, to be at every practice, lets the players know that we’re serious about them. It lets the coaches know that the club is serious about what we’re doing here. I think it’s very important for everyone to be involved in the game."
Woodfill’s passion for elevating women’s sports and making FC Austin Elite a well-known team within the city community is evident when you speak to him. When you attend a game, you’ll see Woodfill making his rounds and talking to the fans, trying to say hello to whom he can.
FC Austin Elite holds its games at the Elite Field in Round Rock, a location that features stands that sit close to the field, giving fans an up-close and personal view of the action.
"As you can see from the home field, you’re right here, the players are right here. You get to know everyone involved with the team and I think there’s a specialness to that, to be able to really be close to the game and close to the players," Woodfill said.
The athletes that make up FC Austin Elite range from former Olympians to those looking to make strides in their soccer careers.
Woodfill says that the team holds practice early in the morning, giving its athletes the opportunity to work second jobs during the day or continue earning their degrees.
Liz-Amanda Brown is a goalkeeper for FC Austin Elite who was born in Canada and raised in Florida. Brown played for FC Austin Elite in 2019, but went to play overseas shortly after. Following a hiatus, she found herself back in Austin because she knew Woodfill was working on something special.
"I’d like to say I do this full-time, but I have part-time jobs on the side. I am a student still, I’m still finishing my degree at Florida Atlantic online, and I am working as a server, just a little job on the side three days a week to help with the means," Brown said.
Forward Monett Borrego is also no stranger to the club, as this is her second year on the team. She suffered what some called a ‘career-ending injury’ while playing soccer at Huston-Tillotson, but after using COVID as a chance to recover and return, Borrego is thankful FC Austin Elite was an option for her.
"I think with being on the only women’s team at this high level in Austin, it’s definitely an experience I don’t want to take for granted, and I don’t think anyone should at this level," Borrego said. "I think Danny is doing a great job at finding opportunities for us."
Natalia Blanco, center-mid, and Jazmin Jackmon, defender, are newcomers to the club who found their way to Austin through a soccer combine called PATH2PRO. The two are full-time athletes who are looking to play at the highest level possible.
Blanco and Woodfill had a mutual friend, and Blanco was also told about FC Austin Elite after attending the PATH2PRO combine, so it seemed like it was destiny for her to be on this team.
"It’s really awesome, I really respect Danny for what he’s doing especially because it's hard to find a team," Blanco said.
As for Jackmon, her coach from the combine recommended FC Austin Elite to her. Jackmon says she put off emailing her back about it, but once she talked to Woodfill over the phone, she was sold.
"I immediately hopped on the phone with Danny, and we have a great conversation," Jackmon said. "He showed me his vision that he has for the club and I really believed in it and hopped on a plane from California and came over here."
Aside from competing at its best this season, one of the club’s biggest goals is getting its name out there and adding to its fan base. The players say supporting women’s sports starts by supporting teams like FC Austin Elite.
"I think if people come and just like check it out first, then they’re going to be able to see what kind of level we’re at and what kind of play it is and what kind of atmosphere we are trying to bring into Austin," Blanco said.
"I think fans would enjoy just watching women compete, the women’s game is totally different from the men’s game and with that it makes it a lot of fun. And we have a great environment, just to be connected, maybe even have a personal connection with players on the field, yeah I think they would enjoy that," Jackmon said.
Austin FC, the city’s MLS team that has gained major traction in its few years of existence, teamed up with Michelob ULTRA to give FC Austin Elite a $5,000 donation earlier this year. It's a great gesture in terms of recognition, Woodfill says, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to supporting the club and its mission.
"Michelob ULTRA was involved with it, Austin FC was involved with it- who else is going to be involved in investing in women and allowing them the opportunity that our men have? And I think that’s probably the most valuable thing there," Woodfill said.
An easy way to contribute to supporting women in professional soccer, and this team as a whole, is by buying tickets and attending games.
"This team is, it’s the highest level here in Austin for women’s soccer. It’s very on the down low because not everyone knows about women’s soccer, or not everyone pays attention to what’s going or what’s new. I just tell them you just have to stay committed, support women’s soccer, and we’ll bring everything we can to the field and to the fans, and we just want to provide a great experience for them," Borrego said.
To view the full FC Austin Elite schedule, click here.