Retro Stars: Dempsey, Rooney and more

Some of the world's biggest soccer stars played Dallas Cup. Who will be next?

FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Cup is an institution. For more than three decades, the future stars of international soccer have descended upon North Texas to showcase their skills in what is commonly accepted as one of the most prestigious youth tournaments in all of North America, if not the world. That may sound like a bold statement, but the truth is, dozens of the beautiful game’s biggest and brightest stars played on Metroplex pitches as teenagers.

Take, for example, David Beckham. Although he is now arguably one of the most well-known names from the world of soccer, Beckham spent a week in Texas competing in Dallas Cup before he was even old enough to drive. The future English captain enrolled in the tournament’s HomeStay program back then, spending the week in a modest Dallas-area home with a Mexican family who had two sons participating in the tournament. Beckham has since gone on to play for Manchester United, Real Madrid and, currently, the LA Galaxy.

“It was one of the toughest junior tournaments I played in,” Beckham told the UK’s Guardian newspaper back in 2007 (Read the original article here). “The chance for a kid my age to just go to America was amazing. To actually play in a tournament there was a great experience.

“When I was young, I used to get quite homesick, even just being away for a weekend in Manchester. Maybe all kids feel like that. But that week in Dallas was different. I loved it: the football, of course, but the people and the country as well. I just loved being in America.”

Spectators at Dallas Cup XX in 1999 had the chance to see a handful of athletes who would go on to represent their respective countries in last summer’s World Cup in South Africa. Current Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was here in ’99 playing for Everton FC’s U-14 club. Competing in the same age bracket that year was AC Milan’s Brazilian superstar, Robinho, who played for Santos of Brazil back then.

Dallas Cup XX also featured a 17-year-old Landon Donovan. The future USMNT number 10 was here with the U.S. Under-17 squad playing in the U-19 bracket. That same year fans could have likely seen another current U.S. star in Texas native Clint Dempsey. Dempsey played his youth soccer with the Dallas Texans and, as hosts of the tournament, the club often enters multiple teams at multiple age levels every year, meaning it's likely Dempsey would have played in multiple Dallas Cups throughout his youth career.

Brazilian right back Maicon represented Inter Milan in a friendly with FC Dallas last August, but a decade before that he was in North Texas with Brazilian side Cruzeiro playing in Dallas Cup’s notoriously competitive Super Group.

Three years later Dallas-area soccer fans were treated with a performance by youth sensation Freddy Adu, who was playing with the U.S. U-17s in the Super Group bracket. Adu’s squad made it to the championship game that year, but fell to Tigres of Mexico in the championship game.

The next year spectators got the chance to see another future star play in Manchester United and El Tri sensation Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. Chicharito was part of the 2004 Chivas de Guadalajara club that won the U-16 bracket of Dallas Cup XXV.

FC Dallas boasts two recent Super Group veterans on its first team roster. In 2007, Brazilian defender Jackson played for the championship Sao Paulo side that defeated England’s Chelsea FC 1-0 in the Super Group final. And then, of course, there’s Home Grown striker Ruben Luna. Luna played with the FC Dallas U-18 Academy team in last year’s Super Group and, although the team didn’t advance out of the group stage, Luna scored a golazo against Chelsea FC that helped earn the young forward a spot on the FC Dallas first team roster.

From living legends to up-and-comers, all these men are at different stages in their careers. But they have one thing in common: all of their paths brought them through Dallas Cup.

Who’s next?

Freddy Adu – 2003, US U-17s
David Beckham – 1990, Essex County
Clint Dempsey – Multiple years, Dallas Texans
Landon Donovan – 1999, IMG Soccer Academy
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez – 2004, Chivas de Guadalajara
Jackson – 2007, Sao Paulo
Ruben Luna – 2010, FCD U-18s
Maicon – 2000, Cruzeiro
Robinho – 1999, Santos
Wayne Rooney – 1999, Everton U14s