Expect North Texas to become home to postseason soccer

Posted Monday, Apr. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The University Interscholastic League had no other choice but to cry uncle.

As the Region I playoffs unfolded, it became obvious that the soccer programs in and near Tarrant County were going to emerge as the class. And the West Texas and El Paso teams were going to fade away.

Instead of playing the regional tournament in Midland, the UIL announced last Wednesday that the Class 5A Region I tournament would be played at the Birdville Fine Arts and Athletics Complex in North Richland Hills. Athletic director Mark Cousins accurately stated that it wouldn’t make sense for teams in the area to travel west and that the move would save travel costs.

Expect that announcement to be made in 2014, 2015, 2016 … etc.

Soccer in North Texas has always been big. The participation numbers from the toddler leagues to the club leagues are exceptional. The region is a hot spot.

This year’s runs from the likes of the Carroll, Byron Nelson and Grapevine girls squads and the Carroll, Keller Central and Nelson boys isn’t a fluke.

This area is setting the standard. We’re in a golden era for soccer. This newspaper group has witnessed girls teams advance to the state tournament in consecutive years, Nelson in 2012 and Carroll this year. Nelson was one win away from returning. Grapevine had a bad spell of about 20 seconds in its regional quarterfinal against Hebron that kept it from advancing to the regional tournament.

The UIL state tournaments will have the likes of Denton Guyer and Highland Park on the girls 4A side and Mesquite Poteet on the boys 4A side. Coppell will represent the 5A boys, while Plano West will join Carroll for the 5A girls.

See what I mean?

“I’ve talked to past players who graduated within the last five years, and they’ll say the landscape of Region I is incredibly deep,” Grapevine girls coach Ryan Davis said. “There is so much talent at so many schools.’’

Soccer is evolving to the point where there isn’t much difference between first place and fourth place. Consider girls District 5-5A, where fourth-place Flower Mound knocked off district champion Flower Mound Marcus. One of Carroll’s two losses this year was to Keller Central, which finished third in 4-5A.

Several coaches, including Davis and Nelson girls coach Phillip Salyer, agree that some of the better athletes are choosing soccer over other sports. Go out on any Saturday afternoon around this time of year and you’ll see youth fields filled with kids playing.

Salyer echoed Davis’ point and took it one step further. He believes the game is faster, the athletes are stronger and have a better knowledge for the game. The skill level is at a higher level in terms of ball control and keeping possession of it.

“At the youth level it’s getting better and better,” Salyer said. “There’s always going to be a good representation at the state tournament due to the high competitive club system. I don’t think that’s going to change in the near future.”

That isn’t just coach speak. That’s a fact. If you’ve read our soccer coverage, a good number of underclassmen have made an impact. Some were sophomores. Others were freshmen.

And if a coach talks about trying to find a way to rebuild his offense, don’t feel sympathy for too long. The chances are there are a couple of middle school players who are better than who just graduated.

That’s just how good the game is here these days.

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