Caldwell makes under-17 national team
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Watauga goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell has a chance to become one of the top soccer players in the nation — at least in his age bracket.
Caldwell received an invitation to play on the under-17 national soccer team Monday. He is just one of 32 players to make the team, which is likely to take 21 players into international competition.
Caldwell, a rising junior at Watauga High, is one of four goalkeepers vying for three positions on the team that will play in the under-17 World Cup tournament, and in other international tournaments. He leaves for Bradenton, Fla., on Aug. 25. The final team will compete for the under-17 World Cup, and in tournaments in Europe.
“It’s the preliminary stage, but it’s the doorway to one of the best opportunities you can have for development,” Caldwell said. “The end goal is to be in the 2013 World Cup, but moving on to that will be a great leap into college and hopefully into professional soccer.”
Caldwell went to a camp in Carson, Calif., two weeks ago, which was the initial tryout stage. He made the cut from Carson, and will move to Bradenton to stay with the other players brought in from all over the country.
Those players will train, live and attend school in Bradenton while playing soccer. It’s a chance to learn the game well enough to take on international competition.
“There will be 32 of us living together in
dorms,” Caldwell said “What we’ll do is we’ll train three hours a day,
usually in the morning. We’ll play games on the weekend, usually on a Saturday.
They’ll select the first team, which will go to tournaments in like Spain or Russia. We have
a tournament in the U.S. in December. The goal is you want to be on as many of those trips as
possible. They’ll take care of us there."
It means he’ll have to miss the 2012 season at Watauga. If he makes the cut, he’ll likely miss his junior and senior seasons with the Pioneers.
Caldwell said that although it was a surprise to him that he got the invitation, it wasn’t a complete shocker to he or his parents. Caldwell is the son of Paul and Lynn Caldwell.
Caldwell has a passport, and said his parents ironed out a lot of the paperwork necessary to allow their son to play for the national team.
“We’ve known that residency was a possibility for a while,” he said. “I’m sure it will be a little different not having any kids in the house. They’re getting me out of the house a couple of years early, so I think (his mom) will be all right with it.”
Caldwell said even if he makes the team and plays in the World Cup, he’ll return to Boone in time for the second semester of his senior year. That will allow him to graduate from Watauga High.
But even if he was not invited to play for a position on the national team, he was already locked in to play for the U.S. Development Academy, which is designed to turn out better soccer players at the high school aged level.
Caldwell’s academy team, which is in Greensboro, starts its preseason practices on Aug. 13. Caldwell will train with that team until he goes to Bradenton, Fla., on Aug. 25.
“The U.S. Development Academy, which was the league I play in, expanded into a 10-month season, so they could have more time with us and develop us further,” Caldwell said. “I’ve been here the past couple of weeks because A, these guys are my friends and I want to be around the team. I’ve been trying to help out with the goal keepers and Jake Chasteen is phenomenal, so I wanted to hang out with these guys and spend the next couple of weeks with them.”
Caldwell said it would not be easy to skip the Watauga season, but feels the Pioneers are in good hands.
“We should have a very good year,” he said. “We’ve all been playing together from a young age. I’m biased, but this has got to be one of the better soccer groups that has come through the high school.”