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On Tuesday night, the U.S. Soccer Men’s National Team triumphed over Mexico by a 2-0 margin in Columbus, Ohio to earn a berth into the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Landon Donovan and Eddie Johnson scored goals for the U.S., while goalkeeper Tim Howard made several spectacular saves to preserve the shutout. One thing each of the three key playmakers for the Men’s National Team have in common, along with teammates DaMarcus Beasley, Aron Johannsson, Kyle Beckerman, Omar Gonzalez and Michael Parkhurst, is that their career path to the highest level of U.S. Soccer ran through the IMG Academy Soccer program.
In 1999, the U.S. Soccer U17 Residency Program was founded and headquartered at IMG Academy, where it remains to this day with the mission of preparing 20 of the top youth players in the U.S. The U17s train day-in and day-out at IMG Academy, taking advantage of the spacious, world-class facilities and work with IMG Academy Athletic and Personal Development specialists. Donovan, Beasley and Beckerman were on the inaugural U17 squad and saw instant success when they qualified for the FIFA Under-17 World Championship in New Zealand. Since then, Eddie Johnson (2000-01) and Omar Gonzalez (2005) each honed their skills with the U17 program on campus.
Michael Parkhurt and Aron Johannsson, are alumni of IMG Academy and members of the Class of 2002 and 2008, respectively. Parkhurst played collegiately for Wake Forest University, before moving on to play professionally for the New England Revolution (2005-08), Nordsjælland (2008-12), and FC Augsburg (2013-present), but has been a part of the U.S. Men’s National Team since 2007. Johannsson, however, graduated from IMG Academy in 2008 and moved on to play professionally in his parent’s native country of Iceland. Earlier this year, by virtue of being born in Mobile, Ala., Johannsson declared his eligibility for World Cup competition as a member of the United States.
Tim Howard, now 34, played for U.S. Soccer in U17 competition prior to the establishment of the Residency Program, but has trained with the IMG Academy Soccer program numerous times in the past.
Notably, the U.S. Men’s National team has set a new record for victories in a calendar year with 14, improving to 14-3-2 in 2013 and topped their previous record of 13 wins set in 2005 and 2009. The U.S. resumes 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying when it hosts Jamaica on Oct. 11 in Kansas City, Kan. Kickoff at Sporting Park is set for 6:30 p.m. EST.