Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Dallas-area HS soccer dominance could be dying thanks to academy clubs' new participation rules
In the five seasons prior to this one, 11 boys soccer teams from the Dallas-Fort Worth area qualified for the University Interscholastic League state tournament. Six of them won championships, three were finalists, and together they had a 15-5 record against the best teams in the state.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area was the unquestioned leader in high school soccer.
But now on to something that can be questioned:
Can local boys teams continue to dominate now that the developmental academies are forbidding players from participating on high school teams?
We won’t get a definitive answer from one year of playoffs. But two days from the start of this year’s state tourney, the evidence points toward no.
No local boys team in Class 4A qualified for state, and Mansfield is the only one in 5A.
Mansfield (21-5-4), a battle-tested team that has won each of its five playoff games by one goal or in a shootout, could be the sixth straight local team to win a 5A title. But the Tigers are not like the powerhouses the Dallas-Fort Worth area has produced in recent years.
Last year’s 5A champion was Southlake Carroll, which finished the season undefeated and set a school record with 22 shutouts. Jesuit, the 5A champion in 2010, also finished unbeaten and Frisco Wakeland (4A champion that year) was one of the nation’s top-ranked teams. Plano outscored its state opponents 6-1 to win the 5A title in 2009, and Flower Mound Marcus had a two-year record of 56-3-3 as it won 5A titles in ’07 and ’08.
Those teams were loaded with top-level players who split time with their high school teams and one of four Dallas-area academy clubs: Andromeda, Solar Chelsea, Dallas Texans and FC Dallas.
But the opportunity to play for both ended this year, taking a handful of players from each of the top local high school programs.
The academy rule applies statewide, but the effect is most dramatic locally. Austin and San Antonio each have an academy and there are three near Houston, but the Dallas area has four academies that took nearly 100 players from high school teams. A few players chose to compete only for their high schools, but most stuck with the academies, and with good reason. The academy teams offer more exposure for college scholarships.
Top girls players can still split time with their select and high school teams, and most of them do. Not surprisingly, the local state qualifiers are strong and deep. Plano West is a four-time champion in 5A and Highland Park and Trophy Club Byron Nelson give the Dallas-Fort Worth area half of the 4A qualifiers.
But among the boys, Mansfield is the only qualifier from a metro area that has had at least one boys or girls state champion every year since the first UIL soccer championship in 1983.
Mansfield is a gritty team that has risen to every challenge in the playoffs, so maybe the Tigers will stand alone as the 5A state champs. But with so many top players no longer playing high school soccer, it’s getting harder for the Dallas-Fort Worth area to stand out.