For many Texans, football is a religion. Especially when it comes to one of the most recognized professional sports teams in the world, the Dallas Cowboys. Millions of Texans hang on every Dak Prescott pass and Zeke Elliott run.
But with the world’s eyes turned toward the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the other football, and some of its major stars, are getting their share of the limelight, including some with Texas ties.
Texas represents in Qatar
As with every other sport, Texans are prohibited from betting on soccer, World Cup or otherwise. Despite polls showing that the majority of Texans want betting legalized, there are no current efforts at the statehouse to make it so.
According to a recent Houston Chronicle article, Texas is making a strong showing in Qatar.
“The Lone Star State will have plenty of representation at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with Texas being one of just four states to have at least three natives on the final 26-man roster for the US Men’s National Team.”
Three Texas natives on US Men’s National Team
- Kellyn Acosta: Midfielder from Plano, plays for Los Angeles FC in the MLS
- Weston McKennie: Midfielder from Little Elm, plays for Juventus in Serie A
- Jesús Ferreira: Forward from McKinney, plays for FC Dallas in the MLS
The three Texas players received messages of inspiration posted on billboards in their hometowns from fictional soccer coach Ted Lasso, from the wildly popular Apple TV+ show of the same name.
McKennie’s board read in part: “You may be from Little Elm, but there’s nothing small about the way you play the game.”
The message on Ferreira’s board included: “Jesús Ferreira, now that’s a name. Sounds like a holy sports car, which makes sense because whenever you’re playing, I just tell folks to buckle up and hold on.”
A portion of Acosta’s message on his billboard read: “No wonder you’re such a gosh darn good player having come from Plano: The City of Excellence. Show them there’s nothing Plano about your game.”
Soccer enjoys a long history in Texas
Soccer’s professional presence in Texas began in 1967 with the emergence of the Houston Stars. The Stars played in Houston’s Astrodome, the world’s first domed stadium and proclaimed by many as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”
Professional soccer in The Lone Star State has since blossomed in Houston and beyond, with three Major League Soccer teams: Austin FC, FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo FC. While FC Dallas has appeared in one MLS Cup final, Houston Dynamo FC has appeared four times and won twice.
At the collegiate level, Texas has many soccer programs that consistently rank at or near the top of their divisions. Southern Methodist University has produced several professional players. Austin College is known for its explosive offense. The University of Texas at Dallas has an experienced coaching staff that knows how to develop players.
At an individual level, UTD has produced several All-American and Academic All-American players. The UTD men’s and women’s teams have both made deep runs into their NCAA Division II tournaments, with four and two conference titles, respectively.
World Cup awards to be aware of
Aside from cheering on your team to hoist the World Cup, there are a number of exciting individual awards to follow during the tournament. These awards recognize top performances throughout the month of football. Here are the big ones:
Not to be confused with the Golden Boot award, the Golden Ball goes to the tournament’s overall MVP. This could be an offensive or defensive player or a goalkeeper that has done the most to lead his team to victory.
It doesn’t necessarily go to the winning team’s best player either. This year, Leo Messi (Argentina), Harry Kane (England) and Kylian Mbappe (France) are the favorites to take home the tournament’s top individual award.
This award goes to the tournament’s top goal scorer. It’s that simple. In the case that the goal total is a tie between two or more players, there are a series of tie-breakers.
Kane and Mbappe are the odds on favorites here.
The tournament’s top goalkeeper receives the Golden Glove award. This award combines both statistical success and expert opinion. FIFA’s Technical Study Group looks at performance data throughout the tournament to decide on a top performer.
The odds on favorites for this year’s Golden Glove are Alisson (Brazil) and Thibaut Courtois (Belgium).