DALLAS — World Cup fantasies may be dancing in a lot of young heads these days, but members of five Texas soccer teams may have national titles well within their reach.
Youth soccer in Dallas can be "cutthroat," admits coach Juan Martinez. But it's also rewarding.
Five teams from Texas are heading to a national championship tournament in Maryland, and Martinez's Dallas Kicks Soccer Club is among them.
They've certainly got confidence; maybe even a bit of swagger.
"No one really believed we could get here, and now that we're up here, it's like, 'What's up?' No one can mess with us," said Belerica Oquendo, making her teammates giggle. "It's truly an honor. Since we started at the bottom and now we're here, I'm happy. I'm glad to play with my sisters and stuff."
The Dallas Kicks is like a family full of sisters. Many of the members of this 13-and-under girls' soccer team have been playing together since kindergarten.
Deep within their confident exteriors is a bit of awe and surprise when they consider just how far they've come.
"People always told us we couldn't make it this far when we were younger," Lilly Marquez said.
There were humble beginnings.
"We started training at just any pickup park, then we moved to my backyard," said coach Juan Martinez. "From Day One, our goal was to compete at the national level."
That goal has been accomplished. After long hours of practice and summers and weekends sacrificed for camps and training, the Dallas Kicks have arrived.
"I know a lot of us are like, 'Oh, we have training, like really? Like, we need a break.' But at the end of the day, it all comes together," Julie Arriaga said. "It gets us to where we are now."
Where they are now is the top of their game. The Kicks won a state title, and then a regional. And now — along with a handful of other boys and girls youth teams from Texas — they are heading to the 2014 US Youth Soccer Championship in Maryland.
"I always knew that we could, because I know all these girls, how bad they want it," Jordan Martinez said.
She said succeeding at soccer is as much mental as it is physical. Coach Martinez said it's also about teamwork.
"It's hard work, determination... but most of all, unity," he said.
"The main thing is, you have to have heart," she said. "You have to want to play the game."
These girls certainly do.