Representing a country in a national competition is an accolade not many people can achieve; however, junior and varsity soccer midfielder Juan Betancor-Lopez has. Over winter break, Betancor-Lopez was selected to play for the U-18 U.S. National Futsal (indoor soccer) team in a tournament in Madrid, Spain. One of 12 players chosen nationwide for this event, he had to advance through many different trial sessions to solidify his roster spot.
Betancor-Lopez first participated in a state ID tryout in Naples, Florida, and after a solid performance there, he was then invited to a national ID camp in Kansas for five days. After multiple practice sessions and assessing over 1000 players, the national team scouts made their final roster to go to Spain.
“I was obviously really excited to make the team. Sure, the idea of being on a national team is amazing, but I was really more excited about the fact that I was going to be playing with players who could make me better,” Betancor-Lopez said. The junior midfielder ended up playing against the youth teams of many premier division professional Spanish teams, namely Leganes FC, Mostoles FC and Alcorcon FC. The U.S. national squad won two games, tied one, and lost one, yet these statistics prevented them from entering the knockout stages of the tournament; however, to Betancor-Lopez, a valuable soccer learning experience was worth more than any trophy or medal.
“Yes, we lost, but every soccer player knows that playing soccer in Europe is different from playing anywhere else in the world. The level of competition there is the highest, and I saw it when I played. I learned a lot of new skills and tactics, and I know they’ll come in handy when I play for the Patriots or my travel team in Florida,” Betancor-Lopez said.
Juan’s sights are now set on winning the 4A Florida state championship with the Patriots. He plans to surprise rivaling schools with the tips and tricks he learned from the skilled coaches and players he played with in Madrid.