Three players on the MNT’s 24-man squad for this month’s Kickoff Series friendlies against Colombia and Peru will get their first taste of a senior team camp when the group arrives in Tampa on Sunday.
Here’s a few things to know about the MNT newbie trio of Jonathan Amon (pictured above), Reggie Cannon and Ben Sweat.
A native of Charleston, S.C., the 19-year-old is the youngest of the trio and was most recently involved in the National Team setup during January’s Youth Summit in nearby Lakewood Ranch, Fla., but he wasn't the first member of his family involved in the National Team program. The crafty midfielder followed his brother Joseph, who was teammates with midfielders Kellyn Acosta and Paul Arriola at the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
First taking part of the U.S. program at the U-14 level, Jonathan played for Development Academy club South Carolina United Battery. While playing in Charleston, a Danish scout identified Amon and recruited him to the Kies School in Copenhagen, a sports boarding school. Just 15 when he moved, Amon’s talent was quickly spotted by Nordsjaelland, who invited him to train with the club outside of school. While they were interested in signing him, Amon’s age at the time precluded that from happening until he turned 18.
Jonathan Amon's goal vs. Randers. Nice composure. pic.twitter.com/VbgreWa1ox— Future USMNT (@FutureUsmnt) September 16, 2018
Clearly interested in a talented prospect, the club went to great lengths to keep Amon under the radar until they could make things official.
"We've kept him hidden a little because he had to turn 18 before we could do anything about him,” Nordsjælland head coach Kasper Hjulmand told reporters last year. “He played a reserve game in Lyngby and was absolutely outstanding. It meant that we had to hide him away again. We did not let him play too much so people would not see him. So we have spent a couple of years training him, and he has also been at the academy in Ghana for four months.”
Amon returned to Denmark to officially sign when he turned 18 and the efforts of the club to protect their gem paid off. The speedy and fearless left winger began receiving first-team minutes last season and has been a regular starter this campaign, tallying four goals in the nine matches he’s played since returning from an injury at the start of the season.
One of many talented FC Dallas Homegrown products, Cannon has had a revelatory season while appearing in each of the Western Conference leaders’ 30 matches this campaign.
Cannon tasted early success with the club, winning back-to-back U.S. Soccer Development Academy championships in 2015 and 2016 before heading to UCLA for one season of collegiate soccer. Following his freshman year with the Bruins, the rising right back inked his Homegrown deal with FCD, but sat in waiting behind Argentine defender Hernan Grana last season.
“The national team in America has a young player that is asking for an opportunity,” Pareja said earlier this year. “I am pleased to see him grow that fast. He shows a lot of maturity. I’m very pleased to see that this country has a right back that can take off.”
Previously involved with the U.S. U-17 and U-19 MNTs, the 20-year-old defender joins Amon as two of the nine players on the October roster who are eligible for participation at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
At 27 years old, Ben Sweat is the wily veteran of the MNT newbies, and while it may have taken him a bit longer to make it to the senior team, his path to get here should make it all the more rewarding.
As the MNT begins camp on Sunday in Tampa, Sweat should feel right at home. A native of nearby Palm Harbor, Fla., the left back played for Chargers Soccer Club of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, collegiately at the University of Southern Florida and professionally with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2015-16.
Originally selected by Columbus Crew SC in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, Sweat never gained a foothold at MAPFRE Stadium, only getting time with the club’s USL affiliate in Dayton that season. Looking for regular playing time, the left back rejuvenated his career with the hometown Rowdies for two seasons before earning a contract with New York City FC in 2017.
I am extremely honored and blessed to have received this opportunity. It has always been on my list of goals in my career and I couldn’t be anymore grateful and excited to wear the crest of the @ussoccer_mnt and represent this entire country. @nycfc #nycfc #usmnt pic.twitter.com/rqDhTgdWsM— Ben Sweat (@22BenSweat) October 1, 2018
Since arriving in the Big Apple, Sweat has been a regular for NYCFC, unseating Costa Rica international Ronald Mattarita as the club’s starting left back and earning 53 appearances during the last two seasons.
“I’m truly blessed to have been given the opportunity here,” Sweat said earlier this year. “There are a lot of players like me that get stuck or lost in the system – quality players who can play at the next level. It’s being patient and grinding through it.”