Arlington, Texas - Executives from FC Dallas, the Dallas Sports Commission and the Dallas Cup discussed soccer develop in the metroplex and its viability as a host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup at a panel held in Arlington's Choctaw Stadium Thursday afternoon.
The panel included Dan Hunt (FC Dallas president), Gina Miller (FCD VP of Media and Communications), Monica Paul (Executive Director of the Dallas Sports Commission), Andy Swift (former Director of the Dallas Cup) and Bryan Trubey, an architect specializing in sports venues. The panel spoke to the Sports Leadership Institute, a business leadership group visiting Arlington from the Netherlands.
"We know that Mexico, the United States and Canada will host the 2026 World Cup, we're still waiting to find out what those US host cities will be," Miller opened. "We feel very good about our opportunity here in North Texas. FIFA visited in October and it was a wonderful visit. In 1994, the World Cup did so much for soccer in the United States. And you can tell, it helped launch Watch Major League Soccer two years later in '96, so think about the 2026 World Cup, what it can do for soccer in this country."
"We're excited about this. This journey when we bid for (the World Cup) in 2018 and 2022. It wasn't successful, and we were disappointed but I actually think that maybe it worked out for the positive, considering where we are from a city or region and development of the facilities that we have, I think 2026 we're positioned perfectly...We have fantastic partners with Dan (Hunt) and FC Dallas and AT&T Stadium. We are a little bit unique in that this is Arlington, Texas and our other facilities are in Dallas and Frisco. So we have to come together from a regional standpoint and be on the same page."
The discussion also touched on player development in the region and the changes the U.S. needed to make to catch up with the rest of the professionalized soccer world.
"The U.S. is a very young soccer country, in relative terms," explained Swift, who is also a former general manager of FC Dallas/Dallas Burn. "And when when soccer first started to become popular in the '70s, the pyramid that we see overseas was inverted here. Youth Soccer was really the one that was making the decisions. It didn't filter up to the national team. It wasn't where youth soccer that supports the national team, it was inverted, because there wasn't really a very professional system in place. That changed in '96 when MLS started. But it didn't happen overnight. Because at first, all revenues, all assets had to be focused on having the league survive for the first 10 years. But then when that started to change, when the foundation was emulated, and new revenues could then be used for development. Certain clubs like FC Dallas started to change that, that pyramid and started to reposition. Now we're seeing that 10 years later, what will happen in 2026 is that the infrastructure is now in place, you have academies like FC Dallas Academy doing things right."
"We have a social responsibility as a club, to at least get our youth players to college," Hunt said. "By the time you're 12 13, 14, you need to start behaving like a professional. And you need to have that. That's the beauty of our facility is up to 15, our kids training that afternoon if they go to school in the school district that will give them the curriculum and everything they need. And then there's the sports performance side of it. I saw our 13 year olds recently in our facility watching their video work for soccer matches, getting them ready. And it it was amazing to me, to think how far this game has come."