Dallas Cup opening day ceremonies were held yesterday at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, with thousands of Dallas area fans welcoming hundreds of players aged 12 to 19 from all over the world. Dallas Cup is an international youth soccer tournament celebrating its 30th year in North Texas. It was originally held at LH’s Wildcat Ram Stadium but moved to Pizza Hut Park when the Boneyard changed from grass to synthetic turf. The Wildcat Wranglers performed at the opening, as did Hayley Orrantia, who won a singing contest at the State Fair of Texas to earn the spot.

On hand for the festivities along with our family were our two “lads” – British referees staying in our home during the two week tournament. You may have read my posts last year about hosting James and Danny, two great guys with whom we continue to stay connected. This year we have Jonathan, 21, and Jamie, 17, part of a group of 15 English refs staying in Lake Highlands homes for the duration of the tournament. Both have visited America previously only during childhood vacations to Disney World.

First, of course, we had to get some good Tex-Mex in ‘em, just to help them get over the jet lag and get their bodies firing on all cylinders. After some Mi Cocina nachos and quesadillas, they loosened up a bit. Jamie said he eats Mexican food regularly, but we instructed him that Old El Paso doesn’t count.

Then we took them to watch their first live baseball game, where they got to see the LHHS Wildcats defeat the Richardson Eagles in the longest game ever in LHHS history (Cameron Bodell and David Bloodworth knocked in the winning runs in the 16th inning). Next, we took them to NorthPark for Mrs. Field’s cookies and a walkabout. They enjoyed the sculpture and artwork, especially the giant safety pin in the courtyard. In addition to spending time with their host families, the group toured the Kennedy museum, two-stepped at Red River Saloon, and shopped for western duds and cowboy hats. And, when looking for a touch of home and soccer on the tellie, they’ve spent time at Lake Highlands’ Fox and Hound pub.

Dallas Cup is all about soccer, and it’s true that some of the world’s best players and teams participate. David Beckham played here, and Hakeem Olajuwon even played goalie for the Nigerian team, as well as many others who’ve gone on to play in World Cup and professional games all over the world. But the best part about Dallas Cup is the way that young people from different countries and different circumstances come together on the same turf. This year’s teams include 12-year-olds from Southampton England, Piscataway New Jersey, and Trinidad & Tobago and 14-year-olds from Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Maryland. My son, Will, played an opening game against Futbol Club Slavija from Bosnia Herzegovina and they scrimmaged a team from the Royal Navy. I’m hoping for a chance to watch the team of 13-year-olds from South Africa who play for Archbishop Tutu’s Ikapa United.

In a time when America seeks to rebuild its goodwill equity around the world, Dallas is reaching out to make connections using a language understood all over the globe – futbol.