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Commentary: College still a path to U-20s

Soony Saad has been outstanding this season for the Michigan Wolverines.

Photo Credit: 
U-M Athletics Media Relations

While the path to the US national team can take many different routes, college soccer is still alive and well as a chance to catch the eyes of youth national team coaches in the US.

Such was the case last week, as U-20 coach Thomas Rongen called in 24 players for a training camp in Sunrise, Fla. The U.S. U-20s practiced for a week, and beat Canada’s U-20 side twice, 2-0 and 5-0 respectively.

Of the 24 players in camp, almost half currently play in a college program in the United States. Some of the best freshmen in the nation earned a trip thanks to an outstanding college season.

Michigan’s prolific goalscorer Soony Saad started and scored in the first game, while Dylan Mares of Louisville and Kelyn Rowe of UCLA both earned minutes. Ben Sweat (South Florida), Eric Schoenle (West Virginia) and Steven Evans (Portland) were noticed despite playing for schools that couldn’t push far into the NCAA Tournament.

[inline_node:289538]Some of these collegiate stars are known quantities – Zarek Valentin and Perry Kitchen (Akron), Zac MacMath (Maryland) and Dillon Powers (Notre Dame) were all part of the U-20 side that won the Milk Cup Tournament this summer in Northern Ireland.

Each is seen as a candidate for the national team down the road, and MacMath has already elected to test the professional waters after completing his junior year this past fall.

But for others like Mares and Rowe, a standout freshman season has earned them a look. With the U-20 CONCACAF Tournament and World Cup on the slate for 2011, players just coming onto the radar are running out of time to impress.

Earning a look now doesn’t guarantee success for either next year or with the full national team down the road. It doesn’t mean these players will rise to stardom in Major League Soccer or Europe.

What it does indicate is that the path to the US youth setup can be carved through an outstanding collegiate season. Where it goes from there depends on the player.

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