No more carefree high school days for Peter Schropp.
He left Omaha in August to attend the U.S. national team’s under-17 residency soccer program in Bradenton, Fla. It’s been an eye-opening experience.
“It’s really intense. Every single practice you are playing to keep your spot,” Schropp said. “Every day you have to show up.”
Schropp misses Omaha and Creighton Prep, where he would have been a sophomore, but he’s thriving in the high-pressure environment.
Though at 15 he’s a year younger than the majority of athletes in his group, he’s been practicing with the top 11 players as the U.S. prepares for nearly two weeks of competition in Argentina beginning Sunday. Thirty-one players were picked for the program, but 20 travel.
A defender, Schropp began practicing with the top group before a Sept. 25 trip to Spain but had to stay in Florida after straining his back during some physical testing. Coaches were disappointed with the injury but are happy he’s back to 100 percent for Argentina, which is a bigger trip.
He could also play in a Nike Friendly event in Florida from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2, which will be televised on Fox Soccer and possibly ESPN.
Mike Dean, Schropp’s coach on the Omaha FC 94-95 Elite 1 team, isn’t surprised by his former player’s success.
“He’s a special talent that very rarely comes along in a club coach’s career,” Dean said. “He’s very athletic for his age, very strong on the ball with great ball control. He has great tempo and pace when he’s involved in every play. The most unique thing about Peter is he’s extremely competitive. Off the field, he’s a fun, enjoyable presence to have around the team.”
He can see Schropp eventually playing for a high-caliber Division I team or picked up and put in the youth program of a professional team after he’s done in Bradenton.
Schropp, who was in Omaha recently, said it’s bizarre to think about how his life has changed since he impressed coaches at an under-17 camp in California in July.
Not that he knew that at the time. It wasn’t until a week before school was to start at Prep that the program coordinator called and asked if he’d be interested in attending the residency program.
“I looked at my dad and straight jumped on it,” Schropp said.
He’s attending the same program as Lincoln’s Tyler Polak, who played two years at Creighton before turning pro. He’s now a defender for the New England Revolution in Major League Soccer.
Some older players in Schropp’s group already are signing pro contracts, deciding to skip college after they are done in the residency program.
“I would really want to go to college and use soccer to get into a good college,” Schropp said. “Once I get a degree, if something big would come up, I would jump on that.”
For now, Schropp starts each day with a three-hour practice, then attends classes in the afternoon. The team travels to a tournament about once a month.
The team started the semester with matches in St. Louis and Columbus, Ohio, where the younger players had lunch with the U.S. national team and watched them play Jamaica. Most of the players took the same route as Schropp, and he said that’s exciting.
“They gave us some advice,” Schropp said. “They said, ‘Just keep it up, we did the same thing. We know how you feel.’”
Schropp could stay in Brandenton until next October, when his group hopes to be playing in the under-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. The qualifying games are in April in Panama.
But there are no guarantees.
“It actually goes semester to semester,” he said. “Some guys get dropped at the semester if they are not playing at a top level.”
So far, coaches appear to like Schropp as much as he’s enjoying the experience. Though he still can’t believe it’s happening.
“It’s really cool,” he said, “but it’s still kind of crazy.”
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