At 27 years old, having never featured the US national team's youth sides, Ben Sweat doesn't fit the archetype for a first international call-up. Conventional wisdom would suggest that ship has sailed.
But there are many routes to the international stage. The New York City FC fullback did get that first call-up to the national team for October friendlies against Colombia and Peru, as announced on Monday.
“I’m still a little shaken from it, it’s something that every player works their entire career for," Sweat said. "I’ve had little hints here and there since joining New York but to finally get the call, it took my breath away and I’m emotional about it because I’ve worked so hard to get where I am now."
To get to where he is now, Sweat didn't take the glamorous path. After becoming the University of South Florida's all-time leader in appearances, Sweat's professional career didn't come with immediate success. He was drafted 14th overall by Columbus Crew SC in the 2014 SuperDraft but never featured for the club in MLS play.
Sweat was loaned to then-USL side Dayton Dutch Lions that season but was waived by Crew SC in February, 2015. He joined the Tampa Bay Rowdies thereafter, spending two seasons in the USL. Then Sweat got a chance to trial with NYCFC under Patrick Vieira.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason – I think I was meant to come to New York and I got the opportunity to play and be successful in my first year and now into my second season and now this," Sweat said. "I’m beyond honored and blessed to have this opportunity."
Sweat impressed and earned a contract. Before long, Sweat would make his debut against the club that drafted him and he showed Colombus what they missed, adding an assist in NYCFC's victory. He grew under Vieira and made 26 appearances in his first season.
This year, he picked up right where he left off. He's appeared in 27 of NYCFC's 32 matches. Now, he has the chance to represent his country for the first time.
“It’s a big compliment and now I hope I can represent the US crest like I’ve represented the NYCFC crest," Sweat said.
To boot, the first US friendly is in Tampa-- just 20 minutes from where the Palm Harbor, Fla. native grew up.