Abravanel scores a first – spot on ODP’s region team
Some young athletes never have the opportunity or desire to learn how they measure up against the rest of the country.
Soccer player Leon Abravanel isn’t waiting for the attention to come to him. The 15-year-old center midfielder is making his own inroads to someday making the U.S. National Team.
Abravanel has taken the next step in the progression to the national team by earning a spot on the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program Region IV Team. The South Tahoe High sophomore is one of 192 players in the country to make one of the four regional teams.
“I’m real excited,” Abravanel said. “Last year, I was on the state team and this year I made the region team. Now I want to compete to make the national team.”
“Until he came along no one had made the California team. Now he’s the first to make the West Region team. That’s pretty good,” said Joe Winters, Abravanel’s coach at South Tahoe High. “It’s a good launching pad for him to play at the next level.”
The two-time California North State Olympic Development team member made the region squad after attending an evaluation camp in Nampa, Idaho. Region IV includes players from 13 states, including California, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. There were enough players to fill 15 18-members teams at the camp.
“I had a real good week. They liked my strength and that I was fast,” Abravanel said.
Winters says Abravanel’s development is more than physical maturation.
“He’s matured physically and psychologically,” Winters said. “He’s become more confident in his playing abilities.”
The distinction makes Abravanel eligible for a national camp in Massachusetts and tournaments in Florida and Italy. More importantly, he’ll be seen by big-time coaches during his travels.
“I want to play Division I soccer and after that I want to move to Europe and play over there,” Abravanel said.
However, first Abravanel wants to earn a spot on the national team. That honor would allow him to attend a summer residency camp in Florida and train daily with the best young players in the nation.
“I need to improve a lot,” he said. “I have a feeling I won’t make the national team this year. I worked really hard to make the regional team this year. I know I can make the national team, but it’s going to take a lot of work.”
Abravanel’s weekly soccer regimen of practicing twice in Sacramento and playing in weekend tournaments is making his lofty goals attainable. Abravanel plays for the Sacramento Sounders, practicing from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.
“It’s not what Leon is putting up with. It’s the huge commitment his parents are making for him to play at that level,” Winters said. “We’re in such a small area. You’re not going to get noticed by just playing up here.”
Last week, Abravanel scored one goal and assisted on three others in helping the Sounders finish fourth in a 20-team tournament in Sacramento.
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“Let Them Play,” rallies are taking place across California with a mission to bring back high school and youth sports.