FRISCO, Texas - Beginning this Sunday, FC Dallas will host the U.S.'s longest-running youth soccer tournament, the Dallas Cup. After the 2020 tournament was canceled due to the pandemic, Dallas Cup returns for its 42nd edition from March 28 through April 4.
FC Dallas will have a total of 28 teams compete in the tournament from its Youth Club, Premier and Academy programs on both the boys and girls side. For FCD and youth soccer in general, this year's Dallas Cup is a crucial opportunity for high-level competition after going months without tournaments or league play due to the pandemic.
"This year has been difficult with just lack of competition," said FC Dallas VP of Youth Soccer Chris Hayden. "I don't think clubs are the ones that are most affected, I think players are. Obviously it's great for our players to get into a moment where they're getting games with some kind of regularity, which just hasn't been the case over the last year. I think it's one of the three elements to high performance: scouting, development environment and competition. If you've got good players that you're working with, they still need games to measure their performance so you can help them with their individual needs. So now it's the first time in a long time that we're going to get a number of games in a short period of time."
This edition of the Dallas Cup is also significant as it features the return of girls divisions with the Dallas Cup Girls Invitational. A total of 32 women's teams from the U-16 through U-19 age groups will compete, with a majority of the games taking place at Toyota Soccer Center in Frisco. "Now that they've added girls divisions to the tournament it's great for us and them because we have a strong girls program and hopefully we'll perform well," Hayden added.
FC Dallas Vice President of Youth Soccer and Academy Director Chris Hayden (right)
On the boys side, FC Dallas Academy teams must overcome the difficulties involved with some of their players moving between age groups since FC Dallas' first team and North Texas SC invited a number of players from the youth ranks to join in their preseason training camps.
"Soccer is a collective game. Having players move up and down really benefits individuals and sometimes it makes it difficult on groups to try to adapt and prepare," Hayden explained. "We hope that kids will adapt very quickly and be ready for Sunday. It makes them adapt and learn at a higher level, so when they go back down to their regular teams, that experience they had will allow them to continue to play at a high level and have more leadership qualities and impact on the match. We wouldn't trade it, we want our kids to be in that environment with the first team and second team, that's why the Academy exists."
The Dallas Cup matches will largely take place at three venues: Toyota Soccer Center, Classic League Soccer Complex at Richland Complex, and MoneyGram Soccer Park in Dallas. However, division finals for age groups U-13 and up will be played on FC Dallas' home field, Toyota Stadium.
"We're very happy to be the host club," Hayden emphasized. "We have a lot of volunteers at FC Dallas Youth that help make this tournament the success that it's always been. We have a lot of teams participating, so we like the idea of supporting soccer in general in the area and this has been a really important event to put Dallas on the map so having FC Dallas Youth involved in this tournament is a great opportunity and a big responsibility. We're happy to do it."
A traditional hallmark of the Dallas Cup is its strong international presence with clubs from all over the globe taking part in the competition. But, due to travel considerations and restrictions, this year will only include teams from within the United States. Still, Hayden believes the true importance of the tournament hasn't been lost.
"This tournament will look a lot different than in prior years," he said. "But in the end, it's great because the kids will be able to get on the field and compete and that's what the pulse of the tournament has always been about."