Beyond having to constantly weave my way through neighborhood street games populated by erstwhile young Peles and Beckhams, I don’t have much to do with soccer.
Apparently, however, I’m an exception to the local rule.
In the past decade or so, the largely hands-free sport that most of the world calls football* has undergone a rapid florescence in the Metroplex. I find this amazing yet gratifying, particularly since, in 1994, DFW was apparently the only city in the World Cup Tour in which tickets didn’t sell out. This much-ballyhooed athletic shortfall got a good bit of mention in the press, which frankly made us look like a bunch of uncivilized hicks. I would like to point out in our defense, however, that as Americans we have the our own popular version of football, and as a city we have one of the most popular American football teams in history — so I beg of the world audience a bit of an indulgence for the fact that we had a slow start when it comes to soccer.
All that’s changed now. Youth soccer leagues have really taken off, and it’s a rare day during warm weather when you won’t see kids running around all over the local athletic fields in their brightly-colored uniforms. I say, more power to ’em. I’ve always been a poindexter rather than an athlete, but in my estimation the current youth sports renaissance is nothing but good, and soccer seems a more democratic sport than most. In addition to the kids, we’ve also had some great pro teams. One of the longest active teams — and in fact, one of the longest-operating pro soccer teams in America — was the Dallas Sidekicks, who played at Reunion Arena from 1984-2004. They got especially popular in the mid-1990s, as soccer started taking off in Texas. I’m not sure why Tatu and the gang called it quits, unless it had something to do with Reunion being overshadowed by the new American Airlines Center, but there are regular rumors that they’ll come back someday. Hasn’t happened yet.
The team that really made Dallas a soccer haven started out as the Dallas Burn in 1996, when Major League Soccer (which is what our biggest pro soccer league redundantly calls itself) revved up. Here’s what its logo looked like then:
These days it goes by the name FC Dallas (the “FC” means “Football Club”), although it’s also known casually as the Red Stripes, due to its red-striped game uniform, and for less obvious reasons as the Hoops and Toros. Here’s what the logo’s like today:
Why a bull? I dunno. Maybe to emphasize the fact that, like most local teams, this isn’t just a Dallas franchise — it’s there for Fort Worth (which has the Stockyards, right?) and the rest of the Metroplex, too. I guess it explains why they’re called the Toros, anyway. In any case, the Burn/FC Dallas has proven to be a pretty good team, going to the quarterfinals or semifinals in the league playoffs every year except 2003 and 2004. They won the U.S. Open Cup in 1997.
For years the Burn played in the Cotton Bowl, until it just got too expensive to operate there. In 2003 (and this is odd), they played their games in a high-school stadium in Southlake, near Fort Worth. Of course they couldn’t make any money on alcohol sales there, and the fans hated it, so back they went to the Cotton Bowl for the 2004 season. Then, in 2005, the little city of Frisco, north of Dallas, tempted them to move into their newly-constructed Pizza Hut Park, which was built with soccer in mind. That’s the same year they changed their name to FC Dallas, and they’ve been there since.
Let me tell you something about Frisco. I know this sounds like one of those old “back when I was a kid…” things, but I can remember when it was tiny, and its most important sports team was the Frisco Coons. Yah, really — that was the name of the local high school football team. It was on the water tower and everything. It wasn’t ten years ago that Frisco was nothing but a bunch of open fields filled with cow pats, and its biggest claim to fame (at least in my book) was a Mexican Restaurant called the Ranchero that was out in the middle of nowhere all by itself. Well, it’s the middle of somewhere now, and the Ranchero is packed cheek-by-jowl in amongst a plethora of newcomers. They built a HUGE mall at the corner of FM 254 and SH 121, and developed a whole strip of highway heading north from the intersection toward Oklahoma. It’s beyond me how there can be a sufficient population in the area to sustain this shopping extravaganza, but apparently people flock in from all the surrounding towns — The Colony, Lewisville, Plano, Richardson, etc., etc. I know I’m guilty of going out there occasionally; there’s some good stuff available. But I still don’t understand how Frisco become rich enough to do that. Probably they had some dotcom, telecom and computing millionaires living there whom they could tax, and once they started building it became self-sustaining. Anyway, where once there were cows there’s now concrete and shopping centers, and they’re rich enough to build sports stadia and lure in major league teams to occupy them.
The point is: if you happen to be visiting the area in the spring or summer and get a hankering for some good pro soccer, head north and east to the former small town of Frisco in the early afternoon on a Sunday, and you just might be able to fulfill your yearnings. The first game of the 2008 season is on March 30. FC Dallas games generally start at 2 PM, and you can get a ticket for as little as $18.
*The American term derives, somehow, from the British term “association football.”