Every teenager competing in this year’s Sueño MLS presented by Allstate will certainly tell you that playing professional soccer has been their dream since they were little kids, with one exception.
Growing up in Neosho, Mo., where football and basketball are king, Luis Vargas quickly found a growing interest the two sports and ignored his parents’ suggestions to give soccer a chance.
Vargas finally came around and joined a recreational soccer league when he was a middle school, a decision that changed his life forever. During the past few days, he’s put his skills to the test, competing against players in Dallas in Sueño MLS who have focused on soccer from day one.
“Living in Missouri, soccer isn’t even supported, so I had a lot of thinking to do on the way over here trying to get myself mentality straight,” Vargas said. “I was expecting a lot, and I got a lot. The competition was definitely tougher than in Missouri, but I felt I kept up with these guys. If I were from Dallas, I know I would be so much better.”
Of course, he might not even be playing soccer these days had his first experiences with the sport in his local league not been so positive.
Vargas couldn’t help but appreciate the game as he garnered cheers for his stellar play in the central defense. Enthralled by the hometown crowd, Vargas’ level of play steadily rose along with his love for the game
“My parents both played soccer, and they wanted me to play, but I really didn’t like it. It wasn’t until I was 13 that I started being dedicated to this game,” Vargas explained. “I was playing in a recreational soccer league, and in a game the fans started going crazy. I was doing so good. I was beating people and taking down people. It just made me love it.”
Vargas continued to train harder, and by the time he hit high school, he was easily one of the best players in the city. After a sensational freshman campaign, his life hit rock bottom.
Family problems and other issues threw his life into disarray and Vargas was forced to put his soccer career on hold for two years.
After everything finally settled down, he came back stronger than ever, earning first team All-Conference and first team All-District honors en route to leading Neosho High School to the Missouri state semifinals.
“That was definitely the highlight of my career so far,” Vargas said. “To be able to come back and play the game I love and to be able to make an impact that helped my team was just an awesome feeling.”
With those accolades under his belt and a newfound swagger, Vargas decided to see if he had what it took to play at the highest level and made the six-hour drive to Frisco to prove his worth.
“These past two day were absolutely crazy. There is a lot of great talent. There have been a lot of games, and I’m really tired. I’m trying my best to keep up with everyone here,” Vargas said. “I’m glad I made it to the second round and hopefully, I’ll keep going.”
At 6-foot-2, 190-pounds, Vargas is still built like a football player. And he uses his stature to his advantage, displaying his physical power and speed whenever opportunities present themselves.
“If someone gets around somebody, and I’m the last person, I’ll usually catch up to the guy,” Vargas said. “I’m pretty fast. Since I’m really tall, I win a lot of headers. I’m stronger than most people so that’s what helps me out a lot.”
His size and natural talent on the backline quickly caught the attention of FC Dallas Academy coach Francisco Molina.
“We really liked his quickness on the ball,” Molina said. “He has great footwork and isn’t afraid to get stuck in there.”
Just like when he 13 years old, Vargas was invigorated by the crowd on hand to watch the second round of Sueño MLS. With all eyes focused 29 finalists, Vargas stood out from the group thanks to the raw emotion and passion he displayed for the game.
“The fans really get me going,” Vargas said. “It gives me so much momentum. When I hear those cheers, I just can’t stop."
Now 18 years old, Vargas’ goal in life is to hear the roar of the crowd as he takes the field for a professional soccer team.
He envisions thousands screaming ‘VARGAS, VARGAS, VARGAS!’
He’s replayed it over and over in his mind throughout the competition. After all, he’s at Sueño MLS to make his dreams come true.