2023 Alumni Fall/Winter 2023

Achieving their goals


Getting Americans to refer to soccer as “futbol” may never happen in this lifetime, much to the dismay of fans of the world’s most popular sport.

The lesser-known futsal (or small-sided soccer) may be just unique enough, however, to get called by its proper name.

Futbol and futsal share many similarities, but the main difference has to do with team size, and also the location and equipment. Futsal teams feature four players and a goalie, whereas futbol requires 10 players and a goalie. Athletes compete on a hard court versus grass or turf, and the smaller ball used in futsal has more density than futbol’s sphere.

“Futsal is like playing basketball with your feet,” says Manuel Mariel ’09.

Together with his twin brother, Esteban Mariel ’09, Manuel Mariel came up with the idea to open City Futsal after their father, Federico, said they could use the sport as a training tool for youth development. They had already been leading soccer sessions to train kids, but without dedicated futsal courts in the region, the brothers transitioned their program’s focus and turned to area gyms to host.

Demand forced the brothers to find a permanent location, which eventually turned into three. The first two were indoor, and the most recent at Dallas Farmers Market is entirely outdoors. That turned out to be a saving grace for the family business during the pandemic when they had to close their indoor facilities. The outdoor farmers market location thrived because people could play futsal in a safer way.

“As a small business, you are used to having to pivot. The pandemic was a restart for us; we saw it as an opportunity to reallocate resources and move toward a different direction,” says Mariel.

To find creative solutions to their problems, Mariel took inspiration from his time at SMU.

The rigorous schedule of being a student-athlete and working at the same time he was attending school turned out to really help in making this concept a success.

“It was tough,” he says. “It’s not your typical college experience, but it does prepare you to work within teams, understand that there is a process in everything, and find out where you are the most valuable.”

City Futsal started as a family idea, and it continues in that tradition. Mariel is also joined by his sister, Ximena, and younger brother, Felipe, in addition to his twin brother and dad.

The Mariel family now has their sights set on opening two new facilities: in The Colony, Texas, this fall and in Richardson, Texas, at Dallas International School in early 2024.