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Written by Jay Betsill

With the start of the football season fast approaching, the NFL's most iconic cheerleaders are back for their ninth season of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, premiering Aug. 8 at 8 p.m. CT on CMT.

Over 500 candidates were on hand at AT&T Stadium on May 10 to begin the journey of becoming a member of the America's Sweethearts. There were ladies from 37 states nationwide, as well as Canada, Japan and Australia, who were chasing their dream of being on the sidelines to cheer for the five-time Super Bowl champions.

"The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are the best in the business," Kelli Finglass, director of the DCC, says in the ninth season's premiere episode. "We are looking for women who have the total package. They are beautiful and great performers. They can entertain at fashion shows and be ambassadors for our football club."

There are a few new additions for fans of the longest running reality series on CMT, highlighted by former DCC and Dancing with the Stars winner Melissa Rycroft appearing as a celebrity judge and mentor to the girls. While coaching the candidates, Rycroft stresses they "perform with their Ps" – purpose, personality and projection.

As fans of the show have come to expect, emotion and adversity are prevalent throughout the series. Following the opening round of auditions, only 110 will survive and move on to the semifinals where they learn the world-famous kick line. From there, 55 will make the cut to advance to the finals where the 30 returning veterans are waiting. Overall, 43 girls will be selected by the panel of judges to move on to the two-month long training camp.

"You kind of bond with your rookie class anyways," said second year DCC Jennifer K. "But watching the show together as a group is like the ultimate team bonding experience, and we are all excited to relive it together. We all remember what we went through to get here, and you don't have to tell your battle scar stories to your friends because they were right there with you and they experienced it with you."

Many fans of reality shows have come to grips with the fact that there is not a lot of "real" in their favorite programs. That is not the case with Making the Team, as the producers can let the cameras roll and the drama simply unfolds before our eyes. The ladies who are trying out for the DCC are not there to be on a TV show. Their purpose is to make the team and be on the sidelines at AT&T Stadium.

"You get to revisit all of the tough times you go through and all of the tireless practices, but you also get to relive all of the glory," said four-year veteran DCC Holly. "It really is a 'real' reality show. There are no scripts, it's not staged, so everything that everyone sees is true. Whether it is with weight or the kick line, all of it would be happening with or without the show. I think if somebody wants to audition, they definitely need to watch the show. There will be no surprises when they arrive."

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