Tonight the US Men’s National Team plays Peru (5pm on ESPN). The path to the USMNT has been vastly different for players over the decades, but that path recently has increasingly gone directly through the US Soccer Development Academy system.
Players in the Development Academy all hope and strive to get a “call-up” from US Soccer, letting them know that they have been chosen for the next team camp or tournament.
One player who has gotten such “call-ups” is Alex Budnik. Budnik is a 2000 (birth year) goalkeeper who played his Development Academy years with Chicago Sockers FC.
SoccerNation spoke with Budnik at the recent Development Academy showcase and playoffs in Oceanside. We talked about his youth journey though the US Youth National Teams, his future plans, and what it’s like to play for the US Youth National Team.
SoccerNation: Thanks for taking the time to talk! You’ve had quite an impressive youth career, and now you’re set to play in college. Where will you be playing college soccer?
Alex Budnik: I’m starting my freshman year at Dartmouth. I committed my junior year. I’m really looking forward to it.
(See Budnik’s Dartmouth bio HERE)
Soccer Nation: If you get a call-up to the National Team while you’re at Dartmouth, how do they handle college and National Team duties?
Alex Budnik: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I will have graduated from the youth national team system by then, so I have to wait for a call-up to the U-20 or the first team I guess.
Soccer Nation: When did you start with the national team?
Alex Budnik: I started with Sockers in Chicago when I was 6 years old. I first went to the National Team Camp when I was 14, the first time I was old enough to do a Youth National Team camp. I did an ID2 camp with US Club Soccer before that. We took a trip to Italy. I was with DA at the time, and that was the last time that DA players were allowed to do outside camps and trips like that. It’s not allowed any more. The 2000’s were the last group who could play DA and go on those ID2 camps with US Club Soccer. I don’t know exactly how the U.S. Youth National Team scouted me. It could have been at that ID2 camp, but I know they have people scouting games all over.
You never know who’s watching, and I always knew I had to be my best all the time because of that.
Soccer Nation: What was the coolest place you went with that national team?
Alex Budnik: My favorite was Dubai. We went before the World Cup in October. We were there for a week, then we went to India for the U-17 World Cup.
Soccer Nation: Do you get to see a lot of your National Team teammates here at the DA Showcase?
Alex Budnik: It’s good to see all of my friends from the national team here at this DA event because we all play for different DA teams and don’t get to see each other often.
Soccer Nation: Did you ever play at the ‘residency program’ in Florida?
Alex Budnik: I was in residency in Florida with a lot of those national team players. I was there from the middle of 10th grade, through 11th grade. I didn’t play in a regular DA or club league. We had our own US Soccer team that would play against local semi-pro and college teams. We were the last group that was there in Florida. The program closed at the end of my junior year. I went back to Chicago for my senior year of high school, and I re-joined the Sockers DA team.
Soccer Nation: Where did all the other guys go?
Alex Budnik: Some are trying to go pro, some have gone pro, and some are trying to make their way in Europe. And a lot of them went back to DA teams near their home towns, so I got to see a lot of them here, which is cool.
Soccer Nation: Have you ever had any interest in going to Europe?
Alex Budnik: There was a point when it could have been possible, but I want to play for the U.S. in a World Cup. And the best chance of that happening was for me to stay in residency with the US Soccer team and to stay with the DA, so that was the best option for me. So I decided to forgo going to Europe. There’s still time. We’ll see what happens.
Soccer Nation: How do you get notified that you’ve been chosen for the national team? Is it a phone call? An email? Does your coach tell you? Does US Soccer tell you?
Alex Budnik: Yup, that’s how it works. You get an email. You just wait and hope. It’s a brutal reality, but it’s worth it. When you hear from your friends that they made it, you’re happy for them.
Soccer Nation: So when you get an email saying you’ve been chosen for a camp, or a tournament, does U.S. Soccer pay for the whole thing?
Alex Budnik: Yup. The whole thing. They don’t pay for families to come. U.S. Soccer takes care of everything. Cleats, gloves, everything is Nike. I love it.
Soccer Nation: Looks like you’ve got to go warmup! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk. Best of luck at Dartmouth!
You can follow Alex on Instagram: @alexbud6