Real Salt Lake Arizona’s youth academy teams have done well in their first year in the US Soccer Development Academy. As a reward, they’ll get a chance to compete against some of the world’s best this coming weekend at Dallas Cup XXXII.
The Dallas Cup is a prestigious youth tournament that involves 180 youth teams from all over the world. The tournament kicks off Friday, with the championship game played on April 24.
Entry into the elite tournament requires a vigorous application process; however, Real Salt Lake managed to get two teams enrolled.
“We’ve generated a pretty good reputation as far as the style we play,” academy coach Mike Muñoz told MLSsoccer.com.
The U-17/U-18 team in particular has an exciting opportunity ahead. They were given an additional honor of being selected as a participant in the Super Group bracket, meaning they will be competing against the cream of the crop, including teams from Arsenal, Barcelona and Tigres.
They will open play on Sunday at 1:30 pm MT against Tigres, and Muñoz admitted that the experience could be intimidating.
“At the end of the day, all we can really do is make sure that we’re as prepared as possible," said Muñoz. "The guys are super excited. They’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, and they’ve been playing well.”
Muñoz conceded, however, that this team has faced its share of distractions after initially getting off to a great start in the Development Academy.
“The 18s is a team with players that have committed to college right now,” he said. “It’s kind of a senioritis thing, and prom’s coming up.”
However, from a talent perspective, Muñoz said his team can challenge anybody.
“The 18s are a very talented group from top to bottom," said Muñoz, pictured right. "When it comes to the 18s, we were never worried about their soccer.”
In addition to Tigres, the U-18 entry is joined in Bracket C by SC Corinthians Paulista, who many consider to be the favorites, and fellow MLS squad Vancouver Whitecaps.
The U-18 team should get a boost in the form of some assistance coming from the senior roster.
“One of the questions they asked was, would you be able to pool some of Real Salt Lake’s first-team players if they were eligible age-wise, and the answer to that is yes," said Muñoz. "We’re taking Donny Toia and Luis Gil onto our roster."
It’s a slightly different story with the U-16 team.
“With the 16s, they were a little less mature in the beginning,” admitted Muñoz. “It took them maybe three to four months to understand the professional environment, and just to get rid of their bad habits that they developed in club soccer. [But] now they get it. They are a great group to work with. They don’t have all of those outside distractions.”
Muñoz said the tournament will be a good experience no matter what the results will be. However, there is no mistaking the goal of participating in this tournament.
“First and foremost, we want to be competitive,” Muñoz said. “There are people that are writing us off already. Our guys are competitive. They are winners, so when they hear that they take it to heart. They want to open some eyes, and continue to earn respect across the country.”