Within six months of Austin FC II’s founding, three Austin FC academy players have signed professional contracts with the second team.
Anthony de Anda became the first player to do so, with the defender joining ATXFC II in January 2023. In March, ATXFC II added Micah Burton to its roster, with the midfielder having previously joined the Austin FC first team during its January preseason training camp in Florida. In June, Bryan Arellano signed with ATXFC II, after having previously been signed to an amateur agreement with the club.
A number of other current Austin FC Academy players are eligible to represent Austin FC II on amateur agreements. Ervin Torres is one such player, who made his ATXFC II debut in the team’s 3-0 victory against Houston Dynamo 2.
Austin FC II has provided a platform for talented young players like de Anda, Burton, Arellano, and Torres to gain experience at the professional level for the first time in their careers. The current and former academy standouts have relished the opportunity to take the step within the Austin FC organization and have hit the ground running. ATXFC II currently sits in 2nd place in the MLS Next Pro Western Conference midway through the season, boasting a 10-4-4 record and recording a league-high nine clean sheets.
Being the first academy player to sign for ATXFC II brought its own challenges, but de Anda says the club was supportive throughout his transition and made him feel at home.
“They gave me a lot of support and guidance – they knew it was difficult for me to fit in, more so coming straight to a professional environment,” de Anda said. “They helped me grow on and off the field: on the field, more of my position, remaining calm; off the field, I was getting support – I had some struggles being away from home, but Austin FC was there to support me and give me reassurance. I felt more comfortable on and off the field and my confidence went up from there.”
For Burton, the move up to ATXFC II was an important moment in his career, but he says he always aims to keep improving.
“I was super happy; it's another big step. But then again, in the back of my head, I’m not satisfied with where I am, but I think it's a good milestone,” Burton said. “Being with the guys is awesome because you get to learn from new players and older players. That can teach you in a lot of different ways.”
After training with the second team, Arellano says he noticed a shift in the speed of play and the sharpness of touches.
“Just being aware of every situation, not switching off,” Arellano said. “Sometimes in academy games, you can switch off and get away with it, but once you hit the pro level it’s different.”
Being around experienced players and coaches provides an opportunity to learn and develop, says Burton.
“Sometimes you ask them questions to kind of learn and feel what it's like for them and how they experience things,” Burton said. “They were once in your shoes so it's good to learn, ask questions, and be a sponge and absorb everything.”