FRISCO – The inaugural edition of the Bobby Rhine Invitational presented by MoneyGram took place in November of 2011, barely two months after FC Dallas was rocked by the inconceivable loss of the club legend at the young age of 35. The tournament was named after Rhine as a means of carrying on his legacy of continued growth of the sport he loved in North Texas.
Approximately 20 teams turned out for the event in 2011. One year later, true to Rhine’s legacy, the tournament grew. The field tripled in size, drawing more than 60 teams across five age brackets to the FC Dallas Stadium complex over the Thanksgiving weekend.
A portion of the growth is attributable to the prize at stake; an automatic bid in next spring’s Dr Pepper Dallas Cup XXXIV for the four age-eligible champions. A bid was also awarded to a finalist from outside the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Teams jumped at the chance to qualify for what is largely regarded as the most prestigious youth soccer tournament in North America.
“We really wanted the Dallas Cup invitation [as the prize] to raise the quality of the competition to a level that represents Bobby Rhine,” said FC Dallas Tournament Director Jesse McNeil III.
It’s a reward the Dallas Cup committee was more than happy to provide, given all that Rhine did for the sport as a player, youth coach and broadcaster.
“It’s an honor to be associated with the name Bobby Rhine,” said Dallas Cup Executive Director Andy Swift, who was a Dallas Burn executive during Rhine’s playing days. “It’s great to have a tournament like this be named after him, to serve as a legacy.”
It’s a testament to the club’s dedication of honoring Rhine’s legacy that of the 16 Dallas Cup-eligible teams that advanced to the tournament semifinals, 10 were FC Dallas Youth and affiliate teams. Of those 10 teams, five advanced to their respective finals. Of the five, three won championships and a fourth qualified for Dallas Cup as an out-of-town finalist.
“Getting to Dallas Cup is not easy at all,” said Jesse Suarez, whose FC Dallas ’97 Blue team won the U-16 Division. “We’re very fortunate and appreciative of the Bobby Rhine Invitational to give us this opportunity to be in the Dallas Cup.”
Of the four FC Dallas teams that qualified for Dallas Cup XXXIV by virtue of their performances at the Bobby Rhine Invitational presented by MoneyGram, three were El Paso affiliates. Ralph Sifuentes coached all three of those teams and was overwhelmed by the opportunity to participate in a competition as prestigious as Dallas Cup.
“It’s great for us to come to Dallas and participate in a tournament at FC Dallas Stadium,” Sifuentes said. “Being able to now participate in Dallas Cup is the goal we had in mind when we came here. It’s great to accomplish.”
“We’re really proud of the fact that an FC Dallas Affiliate has such strong teams,” said FC Dallas Youth Vice President Chris Hayden. “It really speaks to the quality of their players and the quality of their teams that they’re able to advance here and move on.”
Hayden also noted that in addition to showcasing the quality of the club’s youth and affiliate programs, it was just as important to the organization to perform well at the weekend invitational to pay tribute to the legacy of Bobby Rhine.
“This tournament is named after Bobby,” said Hayden. “So, it means something to us to put quality teams on the field and in the final. I’m sure Bobby would be proud of that.”