A clinical finish. A screamer from outside the box. A perfectly-placed one-timed shot. Tim Weah put the ball in the back of the net three times across 58 minutes against Paraguay at October’s FIFA U-17 World Cup in India for a head-turning hat trick. It marked the first scored by a U.S. player in the knockout stage of a men’s World Cup tournament.
Weah shined in his first major international exposure against Paraguay, albeit at the U-17 level. Now set to take on La Albirroja’s senior squad, he will look to make the most of his first call-up to the full U.S. Men’s National Team.
“The Paraguay game with the U-17s was the game that the world saw me in,” Weah said. “To be called up for the Men’s National Team to play against Paraguay’s national team is insane. I’m super happy. It’s an honor playing for the U.S. flag, for the crest and for the people.”
The U-17 World Cup serves as a showcase for some of soccer’s most scintillating youth prospects. Weah’s breakout hat trick came a few short days after the Men’s National Team came up achingly short in World Cup qualification. The performance provided a soothing spark of hope for the program’s future in a low moment.
“We were really down at the time, knowing we’re going to have to wait to see our flag at the World Cup” Weah said. “We were young kids, all nervous playing our first World Cup. There was a lot of pressure but I think we handled it really well. As a team and as a unit we came together and really fought for what we thought was ours. We left everything out on the pitch.”
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The hat trick earned Weah attention, but it’s far from the only reason he stands out. His first claim to fame can be found on the back of his jersey. The 18-year-old is the son of George Weah, considered by many to be the greatest African soccer player of all time. Winner of the 1995 Ballon d’Or and still the only African to receive that honor, the elder Weah spent a long career in Europe with some of the continent’s most prestigious clubs.
While Tim made waves in India, months later George inspired hope in his home nation when he won election as President of Liberia. His January inauguration marked the country’s first transition between democratically-elected leaders in 74 years. He’s the second to hold the office after the end of the country’s second civil war in 2003.
“He’s been a great father to me, so I know he’s going to be a great father to the people of Liberia,” Weah said. “As it’s a dream for him, it’s a dream for me. He’s the best fit for the country. He’s ready for it. It’s a lot of work but I believe in him. I feel completely blessed to be a part of the first family. Once they [George and his wife Clar] do everything right, the country will love them. I love them.”
As a footballer, George starred for three years at Paris Saint-Germain, and Tim followed in his footsteps to sign his first professional contract with the club in July 2017. Born in New York, he spent a few seasons in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy with BW Gottschee and New York Red Bulls before a 2014 move to enter PSG’s youth set-up.
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“It’s a really great environment for a young kid and for an American to be in because you’re exposed to great, great talent,” Weah said. “Coming into the team, I don’t feel like I was nervous but I knew I had something to fight for. I’m playing alongside players who are the stars of the game, soon-to-be legends. This is a really great opportunity and I’m hoping to seize the opportunity.”
After the solid showing against Troyes, he earned another sub appearance the following week against Metz. His PSG first-team breakthrough launched him to his first senior MNT call-up.
“This year, everything’s just been thrown at me,” Weah said. “From the World Cup to making my debut for Paris Saint-Germain, getting called to the full Men’s National Team, it’s just coming really fast so I have to be prepared for all that. It’s a complete blessing knowing that I am considered as a top prospect. A lot of 18-year-olds have this dream of playing for their country and playing for a top club, so I just feel completely blessed and I’m willing to take the challenge.”
Weah’s welcome to the world stage came against the Paraguay U-17s last October. As he approaches another matchup with La Albirroja, Weah stands as one of several promising prospects on a roster packed with potential. His performance in India provided hope for the National Team’s next generation. Now, that generation will take the field in Cary as the USA forges ahead.
“We’re building a new team with talented young players,” Weah said. “A lot of young kids are getting exposure and getting call-ups to show the coaches what we can do. I feel like this team has a whole bunch to offer. It’s going to be interesting to see what we can do in the future.”