Highly Successful Youth Soccer Tournaments Bring Players from 22 Countries Together To Compete
The USA has thousands of youth soccer tournaments every year, but only one IberCup USA and Dallas International Girls Cup. With a unique, European opening ceremony with thousands of players and coaches united, sharing their passion for the beautiful game and an amazing number of games ending in PKs — this is very different than the norm.
Youth Soccer News: Youth soccer players came from 22 countries and all across the nation to participate in the 2018 IberCup USA and the Dallas International Girls Cup.
In fact, 275 teams competed this year, and thousands of people packed the tournaments’ opening ceremony at the sold-out Curtis Culwell Arena. Performances of the Big D Marching Band, The Wylie Pirate Pacesetters Dance Group, and a Q&A with Dutch footballer who is now the U.S. Soccer U15 National team coach Dave van den Bergh along with a song and dance exhibition of the players from South Africa’s Ipaka United made the ceremony very special.
Here is a list of the prestigious international soccer clubs who sent their teams to the USA to compete.
Atletico de Madrid (Spain), Arsenal FC (England), AS Truitier Haiti (Haiti), Benfica SL (Portugal), CD Plaza Amador (Panama), Champs Academy (Guatemala), College Cup (El Salvador), CS Herediano (Costa Rica), Esbjerg fB (Denmark), Faly Academy (Canada), Gremio (Brasil), GNK Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia), Intercups (Mexico), Manchester City (England), Ottawa South United (Canada), Pumas UNAM (Mexico), Rayados SC (Mexico), Santos Laguna (Mexico), South Melbourne FC (Australia), United Junior (Chile).
The semifinals and the finals were highly competitive with many tied scores leading to PKs to determine what teams would advance and become the IberCup USA champions.
Top American youth soccer teams came from the East and West Coast to participate. In fact, youth players from top clubs in Illinois, N. Texas, S. Texas, W. Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland/D.C., Massachusetts, California, Colorado, and New York joined their international peers to test their talents on the pitch.
The IberCup USA champions for this multicultural youth soccer tournament are: São Paulo Texas FC, Manchester City FC, Dallas Texans Stavrou, Arsenal FC, Intercups and SL Benfica.
The Finals matches are listed below:
- Boys 2009 São Paulo Texas FC vs FC Dallas Gonzalez
- Boys 2008 Manchester City vs Dallas Texans Red Estrada
- Boys 2007 GNK Dinamo Zagreb vs Dallas Texans Stavrou
- Boys 2006 Arsenal FC vs Oklahoma Energy FC Soesbee
- Boys 2005 Atletico Madrid vs Intercups
- Boys 2003 SL Benfica vs Sockers FC Chicago
SoccerToday’s editor Diane Scavuzzo interviewed Loek van Zijl, the founder of Premier International Tours, which hosts the tournaments.
Diane Scavuzzo: The 2018 IberCup USA and the Dallas International Girls Cup bring nearly 10,000 people together — all young players wanting to test their skills. The IberCup is only for boys?
Loek van Zijl: Yes, and we have the Dallas International Girls Cup so clubs can bring all their highly competitive teams. Although these two youth tournaments have different names, I consider them as one event here in the USA.
The IberCup is really one of the most important youth football tournaments in the world and internationally.
Youth soccer players from more than 80 countries have participated. In fact, every year, more than 40,000 players participate in the various IberCup tournaments. The IberCup is held in the USA, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, and Japan.
Diane Scavuzzo: When did the IberCup USA launch?
Loek van Zijl: This is the third year for the IberCup in the USA, and the eighth year for Dallas International Girls Cup.
Diane Scavuzzo: Can you tell me some of the top clubs that showcased their talents at your event?
Loek van Zijl: First of all, domestically we were very excited to have a clubs like the MLS Philadelphia Union and Orlando City participating — and, of course, we have top local clubs participating, like FC Dallas, Dallas Texans, and Solar. Then we have soccer teams from Chicago, San Diego, Florida, and all over the country — so domestically, we are very well represented.
This year, we had an agreement with Long Island Junior Soccer League, and their champion was invited to play and we have similar agreements with other top clubs across the USA.
Diane Scavuzzo: How many International youth soccer teams are playing?
Loek van Zijl: We have 60 international teams.
Diane Scavuzzo: How competitive is the level of play?
Loek van Zijl: The highest in the USA.
This is based on pure fact — the two tournaments together can be called the most prestigious competitive international tournament for young players in the USA.
We have the big name clubs, like Arsenal and Manchester City from England, Benfica from Portugal, Atletico Madrid from Spain, and Gremio from Brazil, just to name a few. These are really great teams for our young American players to compete against.
We have top-notch international teams — perhaps people may not recognize all the club names but these teams that are playing at the highest level in their country.
We have a team from Sweden, and while I doubt people are familiar with their name, but they have won the Gothia Cup, which is a very competitive tournament.
One of these kids might be the next Messi.
Diane Scavuzzo: So when you approach an international club to come to play in the United States, what do they initially think?
Loek van Zijl: First of all, they love to come to the U.S. because the U.S. is very appealing to international teams. Secondly, they want to know what kind of competition they expect.
So, we give them a lineup based on the most recent participation —so they know the competition is good. And then, finally and perhaps most importantly for the international top teams like Arsenal and Manchester City, you need to pay for it.
So we have a budget of between $250,000 and $300,000 and we cover the costs for these teams to come over. We pay for their flights, their hotel, and their meals, even the ground transportation for their entire delegation is covered.
Diane Scavuzzo: You’re not paying for all the international teams — just the highest profile clubs like Manchester City?
Loek van Zijl: Correct. We pay in full for the top 6 international teams, and then we cover various other travel-related costs for international teams who receive significantly smaller subsidies.
Diane Scavuzzo: How many hotel rooms were booked for the 2018 IberCup USA and Dallas International Girls Cup?
Loek van Zijl: We booked over 5,000 nights.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the economic impact of the tournament?
Loek van Zijl: I do not have a dollar amount but I know it is in the millions.
Diane Scavuzzo: And what motivates you to do this?
Loek van Zijl: I want to be the best. (laughs)
I want to put something on the map, and this we have achieved.
Diane Scavuzzo: The 2018 IberCup was truly an amazing example of how soccer unites our planet.
With players from all around the world passionately playing, it was a great example of the power of our favorite sport. Also, the value of competing against these top European clubs is great for player development.
Loek van Zijl: Absolutely. In 2017, all our international top teams won the tournament. It was an eye-opener for many American players.
This year, we had a team from Dallas — the Dallas Texans — become champions and that was great to see, however, most American teams think they’re the best in their city, or the best in the state, or maybe even the best in the country. And then they come to a tournament like this and they get their butts kicked.
And, the coaches love it because they can silently say to their teams, “Hey, you think you’re something, but now you know where you’re at. You have to work harder and invest more time, and train harder, and be smarter to get to a level like this.”
So I think the entire U.S. soccer community benefits tremendously from the competition at our tournament.
Diane Scavuzzo: You work with a lot of different tournaments in Europe? Why did you partner with the IberCup?
Loek van Zijl: Because they asked me. (laughs) And the IberCup staff is absolutely fabulous to work with. They’re in it for the right reasons, this is not like so many money-driven tournaments. They’re in it to bring a high level of play and to brand that Ibercup thing all over the world. I think within five years, Ibercup will be the standard of international tournaments all over the world.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are your plans for the future?
Loek van Zijl: I really don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if we continue to grow this tournament next year, perhaps with over 300 teams.
Top image: Atletico Madrid and Dallas Texans players enjoying the 2018 IberCup USA – together.
Photo Credit: Diane Scavuzzo