The Dallas Cup XXXII, one of the most prestigious international youth soccer tournaments in the world, begins the week of April 17, 2011, and continues through Easter, in our very own backyard.
One hundred eighty teams from all around the world will be competing in various age groups, from ages eleven to nineteen, with only one team in each division having the honor of raising the esteemed “Boot & Ball Trophy” at the end of the competition. A total of thirty local teams, acting as hosts to the assorted foreign teams, have qualified for the tournament this year. The list includes some of the most esteemed soccer clubs in the country, including Solar SC, Andromeda SC, FC Dallas, and Dallas Texans.
The Dallas Cup is a tournament that started 31 years ago by a local youth soccer club called the Texas Longhorns, which used the tournament as a way to repay the hospitality that teams in Europe had shown to the Longhorn teams when they travelled abroad. The Dallas Texans Soccer Club recently assumed the role of the official host of the tournament. The games for this tournament are played at 2 local venues, Frisco’s Pizza Hut Park, which is home to the FC Dallas Soccer Team, and the Richland Community College fields, which are located just north of Highway 635 on Abrams Road. In fact, at Pizza Hut Park, monkeys will be passing out soccer programs to those in attendance at the opening ceremonies.
This year’s theme–“Bringing the World to Dallas”–is appropriate for the tournament, as more than 60 of the 180 participating teams are from outside the United States. The global breadth of this tournament is evident at the opening ceremony, which includes a parade of all the players, with each team carrying their country’s flag (very similar to the activities held before the Olympics). The first couple of days of the tournament are the preliminary rounds of the games, with each team guaranteed at least 3 games. The results of the initial rounds of the tournament will determine whether a team moves on to the quarterfinal rounds, and then it is single elimination thereafter, with the final games for each division being held on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Easter weekend.
Although there are a number of quality teams at the younger age levels, the most competitive division of the tournament is the “Super Group,” which includes teams from Germany, Brazil, England, Canada, Spain, Panama, Costa Rica, and Japan this year.
This division showcases some of the best players at the 18-19 year age level in the world. Some of the previous players who have taken the stage in the Super Group division include the following renowned players during their earlier years: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United, and David Beckham and Donovan Landon, members of LA Galaxy. Furthermore, college and professional scouts swarm the facilities hoping to find the next greatest player in the world.
Gordon Jago, executive director of the Dallas Cup has stated, “Our mission is to give as many young American youth soccer players, as possible, the opportunity to test their soccer skills against the very best from around the world, and [tournament manager, Randy Jones,] has certainly achieved this objective for this year’s tournament, with 19 different countries represented in the 7 different age groups.”
The feature match of this year’s tournament will be held on Sunday, April 17th, at 7:30 pm, right after the parade at the opening ceremonies. History will be made this year as the youth team of the two-time defending English Premier League Academy Champions, Arsenal FC of London, England, will make its USA debut against the host club, Dallas Texans SC. This will be the first ever Arsenal FC team from the Arsenal club to play in the USA at any level of play during its 125 year history. The hype surrounding the competition between the USA against England on the pitch should provide for an exciting match.
Ini Bryce ’11 will be playing in this game, and he provided the following insight: “Although my team and I have the utmost respect for the Arsenal club and team, when it comes to game-time, we plan to play our hearts out to prove to England that the US can compete at the highest levels with some of the top-notch programs in Europe.” Bryce’s team, Dallas Texans USSF U17/18 Academy, may be viewed by some as the underdogs entering this match, but Ini believes his team can overcome the predictions: “We all come here for one reason: to win the game we all love playing even if it means defying the odds. If we come out playing our game, we can and will win.”
Most of the teams participating in the Dallas Cup are required to participate in the unique “HomeStay Program.” This program includes the introduction of one or more foreign players of the same age into the homes of many families of the local teams. In fact, my team is hosting the Fussballschule Millerntor football club from Germany and most of the families on our team will have 1-2 players from this team at their home during the tournament. As teams from across the world (approximately 19 different countries over 5 continents) make the journey to Dallas and stay with their host families, friendships are made for life among the youth players along with the wide variety of deep cultural experience and knowledge exchanged by the time the program ends.
If you want to see some competitive soccer play before your Easter vacation or the featured program-selling monkeys Mikey and Rocky you might consider making the trek up to Pizza Hut Park on Friday or Saturday. The schedules can be found at www.dallascup.com. It’s a show not to be missed.