BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, September 18, 2013
The US U-20 team is likely to assemble soon for its first camp of the 2015 cycle, and the core of the squad is likely to consist of full professionals, many of whom based in Europe.
Omar Thompson, 18, is one such player who is eager to get into the U-20 fold after signing his first professional contract with Wigan over the summer. He began training with the club's first team during the preseason but has settled in with Wigan's U-21s where he is expected to play this season. While Thompson views his first team debut as something that is "down the line," he stresses that the focus of the organization is getting back to the Premier League after the club was relegated in May despite winning the FA Cup.
"It's great - I was happy and over the moon," Thompson told YA on his being awarded a pro contract. "I fit in with the first team, but it's obviously a lot quicker since they're full grown men and it is more physical. I'm expecting to play with the U-21s this year. I've trained with the first team sometimes and in preseason. Now I'm with the U-21s. Everyone here is just focused on getting back to the Premier League and winning our games."
Thompson is also a relative newcomer to the U.S program. Born in Miami, Thompson always possessed dual nationality with the U.K and the United States. When he was a young child, he moved back to England, and it was there where he developed as a soccer player. He returns to the United States nearly every year to visit family, although now, as a professional player, his time is likely to be more limited.
At Wigan he has blossomed into a winger, and the club recognized his potential by handing him his professional deal. Naturally right-footed, Thompson's preferred position is to play as a left winger since it gives him the opportunity to cut into the middle of the field.
Wigan, however, is hardly the only team that values him as a player. In the spring, US U-18 head coach Javier Perez called Thompson into a camp for his international debut. Since he has lived most of his life in England, Thompson was not expecting the callup, but it was his first choice to represent the U.S over the country in which he resides.
"I've always wanted to play for the USA because I was born there," Thompson explained. "I always think you should play with the country you're born. I was kind of surprised I got called. I enjoyed it. It was good training. There was a very sharp tempo."
The experience for Thompson went well, and he recalled getting along with his teammates well despite his foreign upbringing. The recent US U-18 team has been known for having a large group of players who have risen together through the system since the youngest levels of the U.S system. Despite this and his thick English accent, Thompson said he fit in well with the group.
"The core of the team has been together since the U-14s, and it's like a big family where every camp has the same faces," Thompson recalled. "They know each other. Obviously I have an English accent, but when I came in, they welcomed me straight away."
The next step for Thompson will of course be the U.S U-20 team, and he considers the 2015 World Cup in New Zealand to be a "top goal." There is still plenty of time over the next few years, but after earning a pro deal with Wigan and getting onto the radar with U.S Soccer, Thompson is off to a strong start.