Following the cancellation of the 2020 NPSL season, Michael Hitchcock, co-owner of the Denton Diablos, Fort Worth Vaqueros, and Dallas Sidekicks, has worked together with other local teams to create a new summer league for teams across the Metroplex. This new league, the Roja League, kicks off tonight with a triple-header featuring all six participating teams at Martin Field at Texas Wesleyan.
First up, at 4 p.m., we’ll have Irving FC vs NTX Rayados. To those who’ve been following the local soccer scene for any length of time, or are half as obsessed with the Open Cup as I am, Rayados will be very familiar. The local NTPSA side holds the record for longest consecutive qualifying streak in the Open Cup, making the tournament every single year since 2012. The only year they’ve missed is 2016, due to roster eligibility issues long after qualifying. Their opponents, Irving FC, have already made a splash in the UPSL, emerging as one of the most consistently strong teams in the league’s still-young North Texas divisions.
At 6 p.m., UPSL powerhouse and 2019 Fall Season runner-ups Inocentes FC take on Denton Diablos FC. The Diablos finished 2nd in the NPSL’s Lone Star Conference in their debut campaign last summer, earning themselves a spot in the 2020 US Open Cup in the process. Inocentes meanwhile have brought decades of past success with them into the UPSL, and have become the powerhouse team in their division.
Finally, at 8 p.m., Diablos Estudiantes will play the Fort Worth Vaqueros in a sort of mini-Chisolm Trail Clasico. The Vaqueros were the only team the Diablos NPSL side couldn’t beat last season, with Fort Worth winning both the Lone Star Conference playoffs as well as a spot in the 2020 Open Cup – their 2nd appearance in the tournament. Estudiantes meanwhile are a sort of reserve/amateur side for the Diablos, bringing back a decent number of the collegiate players from last year’s team.
Two of tonight’s three matches will be streamed online for those unable to attend, with the Inocentes vs Diablos match hosted on the Diablos Facebook page, and the Estudiantes vs Vaqueros match on Fort Worth’s page. All three of tonight’s games will also be opened up for fans, albeit in limited numbers, and with restrictions over spacing and no concession sales.
The Roja League continues with two games on Wednesday, July 8.