Dallas Cup turns international focus to area

DALLAS -- The names roll off the tongue of even a casual soccer fan: David Beckham, Wayne Rooney Landon Donovan, and, wait ... Hakeem Olajuwan?

All, even the former NBA star Olajuwan, are past participants in the Dr Pepper Dallas Cup.

Part of the reason that the focus of international youth soccer will again turn to Dallas, as it does every spring, for the 32nd edition of the eight-day tournament which kicks off Sunday.

This year, 17 nations and one U.S. territory are represented among the 180 entrants in seven age divisions.

Frisco's Pizza Hut Park is tournament headquarters and the main playing site. The complex at Richland College in North Dallas will also be used.

While bragging rights across international lines are important, the tournament's expressed mission is to promote the well being of young people through athletic competition, cultural appreciation and educational opportunities.

Much of the focus each season centers on the Gordon Jago Super Group -- newly named after the longtime Dallas Sidekicks coach -- because it has the most international flavor. This year is no exception with 13 of the 16 entrants coming from beyond the U.S. border.

Two of the three American teams in the Super Group are from Dallas: FC Dallas USSF U17 Academy and Dallas Texans USSF U17 Academy.

The Texans are one of only three U.S. teams to capture a Super Group title (2006) and the only U.S. Super Group champion in the last 24 years.

When the 16-team bracket was divided into groups of four, the Texans landed in Group A along with Arsenal (England), Club Bolivar (Bolivia) and Chorrillo (Panama).

FC Dallas is in Group B along with Barcelona (Spain), Club Sport Cartagines (Costa Rica) and the Japanese U18 National Team (Japan).

Six Dallas teams will vie with 18 other entrants in the U19 bracket. The Dallas entrants include DFW Tornados White, Andromeda SC, Dallas Texans Red West, Andromeda USSF Under 17/18 Academy, Solar Chelsea USSF Under 17/18 Academy and Dallas Texans Red.

The 32-team U17 bracket is dotted with seven Dallas entrants: FC Dallas Premier, TFC, Dallas Texans Red, FC Dallas USSF U15/16 Academy, Dallas Texans USSF U15/16, Solar Chelsea U15/16 Academy and Andromeda USSF U15/16 Academy.

Four Dallas sides are entered in the 24-team U16 bracket: FC Premier, FC Dallas Premier, Solar SC and Solar SC Red.

In the 28-team U15 division, Dallas enters five sides: Dallas Texans Red South, Dallas Texans Red, Andromeda SC Red, Solar SC and FC Dallas Premier.

The 32-team U/14 division includes four Dallas clubs: Andromeda SC White, Dallas Texans Red, FC Dallas Premier and Solar SC Red.

The youngest division, the 24-team U13, has four sides from Dallas: Andromeda FC, Dallas Tigres Gold, Solar SC Red and Solar SC.

Opening Day this year gets a tweak with approximately 130 teams playing their first match on Sunday. That's about 70 more than in the past.

The opening round robin is scheduled for a Wednesday completion. For those teams that do not advance to the elimination stage, "friendly games" will be organized in the latter part of the week, giving teams the opportunity to play five matches (weather permitting and field availability) while in Dallas.

During the preliminary stage of the tournament matches will not have overtime periods. Matches will be counted as three points for win, one point for tie and zero for loss.

In the elimination stage, if the score is tied at the end of regulation time, extra time of two 10 minute periods will be played in all age groups. If a winner is not decided after this extra time, kicks from the penalty mark as per FIFA laws will decide the match.

Group winners in the Super Group advance to the semifinals.

In other divisions, the first place team in each bracket, and if applicable, the wild card with the most points advance to the quarterfinals.

Preliminary games begin at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

Opening ceremonies are scheduled for later that day at 6.

Championship matches in the three youngest divisions will be played on April 23. Title matches in the four older divisions are slated for the following day.