Unlike other sports, soccer has a unique power to bring people together, says FC Dallas owner and president Dan Hunt.
"When you put different cultures together on a soccer field, they can communicate with each other even if they don't speak the same language," Hunt says. "It's so inclusive."
Some, however, see the average Texas sports fan as one of the few in the world who doesn't seem to understand the international language of soccer. Tell that to business owners and entrepreneurs like Hunt who see a great future for the sport in North Texas from youth leagues to the FIFA level, where the city is actively pursuing its own bid to bring its next World Cup to Dallas in 2026.
The Dallas Influencers in Sports and Entertainment (DISE) met in late October as part of a special seminar to discuss the future of the sport and the impact it can have on North Texas in the years to come with live games, youth tourneys and even national attractions like the recently opened National Soccer Hall of Fame at FC Dallas' Toyota Stadium in Frisco.
The biggest challenge of making the average American sports fan as interested in soccer as they are in football or baseball is uniting them in the sport just like it does with other cultures. North Texas could be the catalyst, Hunt says.
"You see almost this fear in American culture of not understanding the game," Hunt says. "Soccer unites people across the earth, and one of the things I'm most proud of with the Soccer Hall of Fame is how we celebrate women's and men's soccer."
Soccer fits right into a community like North Texas and the key is to go all in with projects like the World Cup bid, says Dallas Sports Commission executive director Monica Paul.
"Dallas loves to do it bigger and better," Paul says. "It's not just Dallas-centric. It's all the way to Fort Worth to Rowlett and from Denton all the way down."
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Dallas also already has plenty of soccer fans who can help drive the popularity of the sport across the DFW area from the fans who root for FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium to the kids and parents who spend their summer days on community soccer fields. Dr Pepper Dallas Cup executive director Andy Swift says the biggest problem is finding enough fields for them to play on every year.
"That's helping us as well," Swift says. "It's just as big of a part of the growth of the sport as any other."
However, the biggest driver of a sport's popularity in North Texas is winning. Hunt says whether it's having a winning team or winning a World Cup bid, it could totally change the market for soccer in Dallas.
"This market loves a winner," Hunt says. "Winning would raise its relevance, and it falls on the organization to trumpet those wins from the rooftops. People won't know you're the best if you don't tell them you're the best."