Written by Matt Wixon
Sweep of state berths in Regions I, II proof of D-FW's soccer superiority
The Dallas-Fort Worth area has won more UIL state soccer titles than the rest of the state combined over the last 10 years. But until this season, the soccer hotbed had never aced the SAT.
The, uh, Soccer Achievement Test.
Yes, it’s a fictional test. But in grabbing all eight state berths in Regions I and II, local teams made the very real claim that no sport is more dominated by one region of the state.
“It’s a testament to the players up here and the coaches,” McKinney Boyd boys coach Casey Osborn said. “It’s just a great environment here for soccer players.”
It’s an extremely competitive environment from which this year’s qualifiers sprouted. All four of the local girls state qualifiers — Hebron and Plano West in 5A, Trophy Club Byron Nelson and Wylie East in 4A — played other local teams in regional finals. Boys state qualifiers Coppell, McKinney Boyd and Frisco Wakeland did the same, making Byron Nelson the only team that didn’t punch its ticket to state with a win over a local team.
That’s 15 regional finalists for the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The rest of Region I and II, including Austin, El Paso, Round Rock, Waco and two competitive districts from the Houston area, had one regional finalist.
The success of the girls isn’t surprising. Local teams, filled with players from the state’s top clubs and academies, have won 13 of the last 14 state titles.
But the boys’ success might raise a few eyebrows.
Starting in 2012, boys academy players were no longer allowed to compete for their high school teams. For the Dallas area, with more academy teams than any other region of the state, the effect was immediate.
The Dallas area had only one boys state qualifier in 2012 and failed to win a UIL title for the first time since 2006. Last season, two boys teams advanced to state and Coppell won the 5A title.
Now there are four local boys teams heading to state, the most since the UIL added 4A for soccer in 1999. Time will tell if it’s a one-year spike of success, but the return of academy players could be a reason.
Wakeland senior goalkeeper Sam Whaley returned to high school soccer after one year of academy. Wakeland’s regional finals opponent, Frisco Liberty, was led by former academy player Stian Sandbekkhaug. Coppell star Chris Madden could have chosen to play for an academy, along with some others.
The academy rule forced high school coaches to “evolve,” Wakeland coach Rusty Oglesby said.
That meant convincing parents that their sons didn’t have to play academy to earn scholarships. The players didn’t have to miss the fun of high school soccer, which offers dramatically better coaching than just 10 years ago.
You still lose the top 2 percent, Oglesby said, but those elite players should stay with the academy programs. They’re the ones who get substantial playing time instead of sitting on the bench for an academy team.
For the high school teams, the other 98 percent is still quite a crop in the Dallas area’s fertile soccer ground.
“If a player goes to the academy, you lose a little, but the gap is narrowing,” Osborn said. “The pool is just that deep with talented players.”