ORLANDO Fla. – Recognized as some of the league's top academy-produced talent, the MLS Homegrown Game presented by Energizer is a big stage for those involved.
With one goal achieved, there's another ambition on their collective minds. Many are also eligible for the US Olympic team, with qualifiers coming later this year ahead of 2020's Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan.
“It’s a pretty big goal of mine. Anytime I can represent my country would be amazing," Philadelphia Union midfielder Brenden Aaronson told MLSsoccer.com after Homegrown training. "It’d be super special because I haven’t really been with the youth national team, so it’d be big for me."
Aaronson, who has emerged as a valuable member of Jim Curtin's squad with 19 starts, has seldom been called into the youth national team picture. He nearly played his way onto Tab Ramos' U-20 World Cup roster earlier this season through some stellar play in MLS.
“I think there’s a little chip on my shoulder, but I’m just going and playing my game, not worrying about that stuff," Aaronson admitted.
He's not the only one who hopes to make the Olympic team.
GOAL: Brandon Servania fires a rocket off a corner to put Dallas ahead
FC Dallas duo Brandon Servania and Edwin Cerrillo, both of whom were on Ramos' World Cup roster, also have eyes on heading to Tokyo.
“Obviously that’s one of my goals," Servania admitted. "Whether it happens or not, pushing for that will help me develop. If I make that roster it’d be amazing, it’d be an honor. I’d try to take it the best way I can. But if not, I’ll keep pushing and trying to be on the senior national team like the rest of the guys that are here."
Servania, who has started each of Dallas' last seven games with Carlos Gruezo transferred to German club FC Augsburg, made an impact at the U-20 World Cup. A player oft-capped at various youth national team levels, qualifying for and playing in the Olympics is a natural progression.
Unlike Servania, Cerrillo was never a top-rated prospect. He, like Aaronson, wasn't typically on the youth national team radar.
“First, I want to do my best at FC Dallas," Cerrillo said. "A lot of players want to break into the national team. If you work hard and play well for your team, you never know who’s watching. To possibly be in the Olympic team, that’d be another great honor, to be a part of another storied tournament.”
Heading into the season, Cerrillo inked a Homegrown deal in Dallas with little fanfare. The 18-year-old expected to start with North Texas SC, the club's USL League One affiliate, but forced an impression on the first team. He has since made 10 starts.
"It’s been crazy, it’s come so fast," Cerrillo said. "I honestly thought I’d start with the second team but I worked hard in the preseason. It was my first goal to make the 18, then the second game I got my debut. I was nervous just to reach my goal of playing professional soccer. My confidence went up, I felt comfortable, then I got eight starts in a row. It was an international break. I thought I’d only play that game."