On Friday, November 3, Hopkinton eighth grader Will Recupero woke up to the email he’d been dreaming of.
It was a forward from the coach of his club soccer team, the Boston Bolts, requesting that they release him to play for the United States Men’s U-15 National Team. Beginning on November 25, Recupero will represent the USA in an international friendly tournament where the team will play Italy, Scotland and the host nation, Portugal.
“My dad woke me up and said ‘Oh, by the way, you might want to read this’. When I read it myself I just smiled and was super grateful to be selected,” said Recupero.
It goes without saying that representing your country on any level is the honor of a lifetime, but the process that earned him the call-up was anything but a straight line. Since he was a youngster, countless hours have been spent in the car and on a plane shepherding Will to games, tournaments and showcases, where coaches at all levels could observe his skill and on-field decision making in person.
This June, Recupero attended a United States Youth National Team training camp in Chula Vista, California. Recupero was chosen among the best 36 players in the country born in 2009, and the only one from Massachusetts.
Only he wasn’t born in 2009; Recupero was born in 2010 and is playing one year up. At the camp, he trained with 14 year old boys affiliated with Major League Soccer powerhouses LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders FC, Philadelphia Union, FC Dallas, and many others. Further, Recupero was just one of four players not already in the Major League Soccer system.
Each of those boys was vying for one of 20 spots in the match against Portugal. The competition was fierce, but friendly, described Will.
“I enjoyed meeting kids from all over,” he said. “They’re all really nice. There is definitely good competition because these guys are all really good. But I can only control how I play so that’s what I try to stay focused on.”
He showed well at the camp and a few weeks later was invited to return with a group of 24. That squad battled against the Los Angeles FC U-16’s (which has multiple national team players) and a local LA club called Albion that is also stacked with talent. Against LAFC, Recupero scored one goal and had an assist, and the game ended in a 4-4 tie. His performance earned him a spot on the 20-man roster that will fly to Portugal.
Several current US National Team players were developed through the junior system before being promoted to the senior team, including “Captain America” Christian Pulisic and forwards Ricardo Pepi and Kevin Paredes.
As good as he is with the ball, Recupero is also incredibly humble about his achievements. He is soft-spoken and shy, and demonstrates a knowledge of the game that belies his age. Readers would be misinformed to conclude that his is a God-given talent; Recupero’s work ethic is unparalleled. It is typical for him to come home after practice and head to the basement, where he’ll spend hours kicking the ball off the wall.
“This age group is hugely important as our young players begin the pathway to reaching their highest potential,” said Brian McBride, U.S. Men’s National Team General Manager, in an interview with US Soccer.
Since he was five years old, Will has dreamed of playing for the US Men’s National Team. On November 25 he moves one step closer to making that dream a reality.