More than 165 million Americans, about 70 percent of the population, claim they follow sports. Each year, they pack stadiums and tune in to networks to watch their favorite teams. With a plethora of college teams and professional clubs from the five major sports, it’s no surprise Dallas is considered one of the best sports cities in the country. The games are an integral part of the sports industry, but they’re just a small part of the booming business. Professional athletes, sports marketers, agents and philanthropists from our neighborhood share what it’s really like to work in the industry worth $700 billion globally.
In a state where football is king, Lakewood Hills neighbor Andy Swift provides a sanctuary for the growing number of soccer fans in Dallas. Followers of The Ticket will recognize him from the weekly soccer show, “The KickAround,” which he hosts every Saturday with co-host Peter Welpton. But Swift’s sports career started from much humbler beginnings — hawking peanuts at Rangers games. He got his official start as a broadcaster covering the Cowboys and their 1996 Super Bowl win for the local Telemundo station. Then he tackled management positions at FC Dallas, where he spent eight seasons as president and general manager. Today, the veteran sports executive serves as a FIFA match commissioner and the director of the Dallas Cup, an elite youth soccer tournament that hosts academy players from Real Madrid, Manchester United and other prestigious clubs. Alumni include David Beckham, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Wayne Rooney. “It’s unlike any other youth tournament in the world,” Swift says. “For anyone who’s been part of the soccer community, it’s special.”
“It’s unlike any other youth tournament in the world,” Swift says. “For anyone who’s been part of the soccer community, it’s special.”
What his show covers: The show started five years ago in 2014 when the World Cup was taking place. The show was popular because it appealed to those who were interested in soccer and those who were new to soccer but following the World Cup. It became a regular on the weekend schedule. It covers all topics with domestic leagues and international competition. Like a lot of Ticket programs, we sneak in segments not related to soccer. We try to strike a balance and not get too nitty-gritty for those who are just learning, but we keep it interesting for those who follow it more in depth.
Responsibilities as Dallas Cup director: I oversee the running and operation of the tournament. It’s about raising revenue, selling sponsorships and creating relationships with professional teams. Two hundred teams and 5,000 players compete. About 100,000 people attend throughout the week. Putting such a big event on is a challenge. We’re a nonprofit, so the pressure is there every year. At the end of the day, it’s worth it. The goal is for players to have a unique experience they’ll take with them for the rest of their lives.
On soccer’s growing popularity in the States: The popularity of soccer in the U.S. is an interesting topic. You have to go back a few decades to appreciate the growth it has experienced. The difference between soccer and other major sports is that soccer is a global game. Soccer fans aren’t just following one professional league. Many are also following professional leagues in other parts of the world. When you add all that up, actual eyeballs are high. It’s a multibillion-dollar industry in the U.S. It’s on par or even surpassed hockey. But some people just look at the number of people who follow MLS.[/column]
Favorite sports memory: There’s no other sporting event that matches the World Cup. I worked the World Cup in 1994 when it was in the U.S. I worked with ABC and ESPN as a researcher for the broadcast and attended the games. The electricity you feel when you’re inside the stadium is unmatched. There’s nothing like the passion a whole country experiences. It’s really exciting the World Cup is coming to the U.S. in 2026. I’m looking forward to having my career bookended by those events.
Building FC Dallas: It was enriching, living the highs and lows. You’re hoping you’ll be involved in a team that has a long history and tradition. The team has a good fan base. It started almost 25 years ago, and it’s cool helping all that get started.
On playing soccer: I played in Dallas Cup II and IV. I played with my club team until I graduated college, and I continue to play. My over-40 team just won our league championship. I didn’t play professionally, but I did the next best thing and worked professionally in sports.
Hometown: Punta Arenas, Chile
Job Title: Executive director of the Dallas Cup and FIFA match commissioner
Alma Mater: Texas Christian University
Sports hero: Zico
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