The Texas soccer pipeline: How Derek Missimo’s youth soccer club fed wealth of talent, connections to the Forty Acres

Evan Vieth, Sports Reporter

Sophomore midfielder Lexi Missimo has a quick answer for who she thinks the best soccer coach is — her dad. 

“He’s one of the greatest coaches of all time,” Lexi said.

Rarely can a statement that assertive be said about a youth soccer coach, but Derek Missimo might just have a case. 

Derek began coaching Lexi and her sister Gabriella, a former Texas soccer player, when Lexi was just three years old. Over Derek’s 14-year coaching career, he’s produced 88 scholarship athletes, including 36 total Division I athletes and 19 United States Youth National Team players.

Derek began his senior soccer career as a North Carolina Tar Heel, where he was a standout player from 1987-90. Derek is North Carolina’s men’s all-time leading goal scorer, notching 56 total goals in four years.

“I was the all-time leading scorer and my counterpart on the women’s side (was) Mia Hamm,” Derek said. “That’s pretty cool company.”

Derek also played for the U.S. U-17 and U-19 national teams and received offers to play in Europe for teams like Sheffield Wednesday in England. 

After his playing days, Derek began his coaching career. He is the former women’s youth soccer coach of Solar Soccer Club in Dallas, one of the most recruited-from youth soccer clubs in the United States. 

No coach has benefited more from Derek’s teachings than Texas head coach Angela Kelly. Eleven of the 29 players on Texas’ roster passed through the Dallas club before coming to Austin.

“I think it’s the number one (recruiting) hotbed (in the country),” Kelly said. “That’s why it’s so exciting to be at that state school.”

Among those players are his daughter Lexi and sophomore Trinity Byars, two first-team Big 12 players last year and one of the best teammate pairings in college soccer. Derek is perhaps the man who can take credit for Texas landing the dynamic duo.

“He found (Byars) and saw potential in her,” Lexi said. “Our chemistry came over time, but he taught her all the mechanics of being a (striker). Without him, I don’t think we’d be the players we are today.”

Since Byars’ introduction to Solar Soccer Club, she and the Missimo family have become one. Derek refers to her as his “soccer daughter,” and Byars feels the exact same way.

“He’s always been in my corner,” Byars said. “I literally see him as a dad.”

The two-star Solar products went their entire high school career as the top two players in the nation — Solar Soccer Club went 33-0 while they were there – but Kelly had them locked in to play for the Longhorns by seventh grade.

“We were on a call with (Kelly) and she said, ‘Do you want to be a Longhorn?’” Lexi said. “We both said yeah at the exact same time.” 

Derek stayed humble about his ability as a coach, but his daughter and Byars had plenty of praise for him.

“He is the person that taught us all of our ways at our young age,” Lexi said. “As for the mental side, he taught us all that he knew, which he really did a great job at. He made us feel unstoppable.”

Derek spent a lot of his adult life coaching soccer, but none of it was for men’s teams. Derek didn’t have a specific reason for his lack of coaching men, but did share an anecdote that he learned from being around so many great youth soccer players.

“Boys always ask why; girls always ask how,” Missimo said. “They think of things bigger than what (guys) would at 14, 15, 16 years old. They planned. They always were planners.”

Derek retired from soccer coaching in 2020 when Lexi began her college career. Over the course of his career, Derek didn’t make a dime and put as much time into soccer coaching as he did into his actual job as a restaurant managing partner. He still spends lots of time in Austin, visiting his daughters and watching Lexi — alongside the rest of the Solar Club youth players — play for the Longhorns.

“Playing at this level is a privilege,” Derek said. “Playing at the University of Texas is a privilege. Playing with those kids and that team is a privilege. I know Lexi values that privilege a lot.”