U.S. int’l Lichaj values IMG experience

U.S. international Eric Lichaj (left), shown playing against El Salvador in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals, was a member of the U.S. Soccer Under-17 Residency Program at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, from the Fall 2003 – Spring 2006. (Photo: AFP Services)

BRADENTON, Florida – IMG Academy is not only the location for the 2017 CONCACAF U-15 Boys’ Championship, it is also where many current and former United States national stars trained during their formative years.

From 1999 to the spring of this year, U.S. Soccer’s Under-17 Residency Program operated from the first-class facilities, providing increased development opportunities for players and a platform for future triumphs internationally.

One of those to benefit from that experience was defender Eric Lichaj, who helped the United States to the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup title, contributing with a goal and an assist in two games.

“For myself, it (IMG Academy) was really good,” Lichaj told CONCACAF.com during the Gold Cup. “It helped my progression into becoming a professional soccer player. I enjoyed my time there. I was there for three years. I think it helped me grow. I might not be where I’m at now if it wasn’t for that place.”

The 28-year-old has enjoyed a flourishing career in England, presently competing for Nottingham Forest in The Championship. He has made 150 league appearances for the club, since joining it from Aston Villa ahead of the 2013/14 campaign.

Other prominent IMG Academy alumni include Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, DaMarcus Beasley, Omar Gonzalez, Kellyn Acosta, Paul Arriola and Christian Pulisic. Even Neven Subotic (Serbia) and Jeremy Hall (Puerto Rico) went on to play for other senior national teams, after representing the U.S. at the youth level.

That type of success will give all players at the CONCACAF event, which runs through August 19, reasons to dream big.

It’s just a place where there’s always a lot of college coaches watching, especially for the U.S. guys,” finished Lichaj. “It’s a good opportunity for young players to progress and be seen by people all over the U.S.”