Young Americans struggling to get noticed 

December, 12, 2011
12/12/11
12:19
PM ET

Those who think the American talent pool is shallow might want to ask Kenneth Di Vita Jensen or Diego Restrepo for an opinion. If those names don't ring a bell, it's because just being a successful professional American soccer player won't get you as far with the national team as it used to. With the level of success they've enjoyed in their young careers, Di Vita Jensen and Restrepo would have been stars for the Yanks not long ago. These days, they'll tell you it's harder than ever to get the attention of U.S. national team coaches.

Di Vita Jensen, who was born in Norway to an American mother, has already been a professional in the Norwegian league for six seasons. This year, the 21-year-old helped lead the up-and-down club back to the country's top flight, scoring seven goals across competitions.

"If the U.S were interested in having me to play for them, I definitely would," he says. "I think that would be a great opportunity for me to get noticed by other teams, if I would do well. For this to happen, I guess I have to keep working hard, and play good matches and score goals, like strikers do."

But in 2011, even scoring goals at a professional level won't necessarily merit a call, even for the U-23 level. When Olympic Coach Caleb Porter announced a 28-player roster for a camp later this month in Florida, just 12 players who participated in last month's 34-player mega camp in Germany were included. That makes a total of 50 players getting a look for the Olympic squad in the last two months, 48 of them pros. Just 15 years ago, the U.S. took on the world at the 1996 Olympic Atlanta games with a team fresh out of college. More recently, in 2004, then college student Chad Marshall anchored the back line of the U-23 team that failed to qualify for the 2004 Games.


To read more about why it's so hard for players to get a look these days, become an ESPN Insider.

Brent Latham is a soccer commentator who covers the youth national teams for ESPN.com. Based in Guatemala, he has attended youth World Cups from Peru to Egypt, and places in between.

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