Despite the failure of the US men’s national team to reach the World Cup, there is still an impressive pool of young talent streaming through the team. Christian Pulisic, Gyasi Zardes and Joseph-Claude Gyau are just few of a long list of names who established themselves in the US soccer set-up at a young age. Many of them get their opportunity playing for their club’s academy, but many more go up through the Olympic Development Program (ODP), of which our very own Pete Caringi III is a coach.
Pete Caringi III, UMBC psychology graduate and one-time draft pick of the Montreal Impact, has been immersed in soccer ever since he was a little boy in the Maryland ODP program. He supports AC Milan and in his spare time, he engages in skiing, traveling and cooking. He is pleased to give back to the program that gave him the opportunity to play with established players like Joe Gyau, who played for Borussia Dortmund.
“It has been a fun experience. Being a local guy, there are some kids I have seen [grow up]… it has been cool to see them now entering this program, it’s been good to have a say and try to help them develop, [it’s great] just seeing how the best in the state are and working with those who have the dreams of being on the national team … it’s good to have kids that are skilled and motivated,” said Caringi.
Caringi is the son and assistant coach to Retrievers head coach Pete Caringi Jr. for both UMBC men’s soccer and the Maryland State ODP U-12 boys.
“We’ve had a good relationship throughout my whole life. We know [our] boundaries as he is one of my bosses, [so] there haven’t been any problems,” said Caringi of his father.
The Maryland State Youth Soccer Association ODP is a program that gives young players aged 10-17 a path to the US national team, provided they are willing to work hard. It was started about nine years ago. There are three sections to the program: the District ODP, which comprises of eight districts, the State ODP, which comprises of three main districts, and the Region I ODP, made up of states in the East.
Players who tryout are entered into the District ODP, where they train to represent one of the three main districts. Each of these districts, including Bethesda and Baltimore, selects thirty to forty players that will compete against each other in teams to find out the best players. Those players will then be used to form a team that will represent Maryland at the regional level.
At the regional level, the East regional team would compete against other regions in the country, and the best players are entered into the national pool where they can be selected for trials by the national team age groups or club teams, as well as drafted by MLS teams.
The young players are evaluated by ODP on their technique, soccer brains, fitness and positive attitudes but Caringi says it is still early to judge them.
“It is hard to judge a 12 year old on how they are going to develop into being a man.” Caringi stated, “You look for their talent and their drive … but this group [from Baltimore] is one of the best we’ve had in years, with their competitiveness and skill level. Maryland is a very good soccer state.”
Caringi hopes to help these kids reach their goals overall and he wants to cheer them on when they make it, knowing that he played a part. “I would like to be part of these players making it [by] helping them, giving advice or [training them] on the field.” Caringi said. “You want the US national team and our state team to do good. [I want to] give them whatever they need to succeed.”