Arsenal and Barcelona are among many academies to bring their talented youngsters to the 32nd annual youth competition in Texas.Dallas Cup, one of the oldest and most esteemed youth tournaments in North America, is set to begin play on Sunday. With an alumni list that includes Raul, Giuseppe Rossi, Landon Donovan, and many more, Dallas Cup has become one of the stops for many of the world’s elite on the ascension to that elite plateau. This year’s tournament should be no different, as Barcelona and Arsenal bring top youth teams littered with future first team potential. Here is just a sample of some of the talent that will grace the fields of Pizza Hut Park next week.
Arsenal – The Gunners brought a squad full of players who are on Arsene Wenger’s radar for the coming years, as quite a few have seen time with the reserve team in recent weeks. The experience against high-level competition will come in handy for the team that enters the tournament as the favorites. Before its dream showdown with Barcelona in the final, Arsenal will have to knock off difficult opposition in Group A play, as the Gunners clash against Dallas Texans, Chorrillo FC, and Club Bolivar.
#20 Emmanuel Frimpong – After sitting out for eight months rehabbing a torn ACL, Frimpong made his return last week in a reserve game against Sunderland. Now, he will be itching to pick up some minutes in Dallas as he continues to regain fitness. The 19-year-old spent the pre-season with the first team and showed well enough there for the coaches to keep him with Gunners despite loan offers. The injury may have delayed those first team plans, but he is still a real talent who has both Ghana and England waiting on his international future.
#4 Conor Henderson – The Irish midfielder made his debut with the Arsene Wenger’s team just over a month ago in the F.A. Cup fixture against Leyton Orient. Arsenal U-18 head coach Steve Bould will be looking to Henderson for leadership on the field, as the 19-year-old is the oldest player on the Arsenal roster at the event. The crafty two-way player has been a steady member of reserve games recently and is definitely one to keep an eye on.
#8 Oguzhan Özyakup – The 18-year-old Dutch star is known for his ability to influence the game from the midfield. His vision and pinpoint accuracy over range has seen him quickly rise up the Arsenal ranks. The midfielder has also enjoyed success on the international stage as a regular starter with the Netherlands U-19 side.
Barcelona – The Catalan Giants assembled their Juvenile B team for the tournament, and despite being a year or two younger than most of their counterparts, they are still one of the favorites to lift the title. The Barca youngsters will be looking to keep their undefeated season alive at Dallas Cup when they square off against FC Dallas, Japan U-18, and CS Cartagines in Group B play.
#4 Brian Olivan – Olivan has been one of the most consistent starters with the Barcelona Juvenil B squad this year. The talented left back has also seen his international stock rise recently as he is eligible for both England and Spain – his mother is English. The dual citizenship has made him an attractive option to some of the top EPL squads with Manchester City and Chelsea both expressing interest in his services.
#22 Alain Richard Ebwelle – Ebwelle is the youngest member of Barcelona’s traveling roster but he might be the most well known. The 15-year-old forward has been on the radar of hardcore Barcelona fans for a few years. Last August, he cemented that place as one of the La Masia stars to watch with a mesmerizing performance against the Real Madrid Academy.
#17 Fernando Quesada – The skillful midfielder was a standout with the Spanish U-17 national team in 2010 with two goals in three games during UEFA qualifying last October. An injury kept him out of the most recent international friendlies in March, but he appears to be healthy again with appearances in the last two games for Juvenil B before Dallas Cup.
Tigres – The Monterrey based U-20 side is flying the flag for Mexico in this competition, but the team could become a domestic favorite. Tigres is home to five United States youth national team hopefuls including U.S. U-20 midfielder Moises Orozco and Texas-native Victor Garza.
#6 Juan Pablo Ocegueda – The starting left back for the team is one of the five U.S. national team hopefuls. Originally from Riverside, Calif., the defender played with the U.S. U-18 team last year during a round-robin tournament in Israel. The 17-year-old made his debut only last month with the club, but has been a feature in the starting lineup since. With games against Corinthians, RSL-AZ, and Vancouver Whitecaps on the docket, he will be tested in Group C action.
Eintracht Frankfurt – Even though Eintracht Frankfurt sit mid-table in their league, the German club has a side capable of contending for the Dallas Cup title with 12 of the 14 players from its 2010 Bundesliga U-17 Championship team on the roster. One of the two missing, Sonny Kittel, has already made the leap to the first team; and now, a couple of his former teammates are looking to join him in the coming months.
#4 Julian Dudda – The Germany U-18 center back has been in the spotlight the last few weeks as Eintracht Frankfurt has only let in two goals in its last three games. The 18-year-old defender also notched his first goal of the season two weeks ago against Bayern Munich’s U-19 side.
#5 Alexander Hien – The center midfielder has appeared in all 21 games for Eintracht Frankfurt this year. He picked up his first goal of the season in the team’s final warm-up game. Frankfurt will need his production to survive in a very competitive Group D against Coritiba FC, Houston Dynamo, and LD Alajuelense.
For those unable to attend the event in Dallas, the semifinals and final of Super Group are set to air on Foxsoccer.tv. Check www.DallasCup.com for a complete schedule and standings in the coming week.
And check back with Goal.com USA throughout the week as we provide live coverage, game reports, and in-depth features from the world-renown tournament.
J.R. Eskilson is the Youth Soccer Editor at Goal.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NCAAsoccer
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