LAND O’LAKES — There are numerous steps, and a large amount of competition to climb over, if Sydny Nasello is to suit up for the U.S. women’s national team in a World Cup.
But at least the first step is behind her.
"I’m in the pool," Nasello said.
That pool is the one where only the best soccer prospects in the country wade. Recently Nasello, a senior at Land O’Lakes, was one of just 24 who took part in a training camp for the under-18 national team.
It doesn’t mean she’s made the roster, but she is well placed on the national radar. As described on the ussoccer.com website "the U-18 WNT provides a transition for a number of those players that could possibly make up the core of the team that would attempt to qualify for the following U-20 women’s World Cup, or even contribute to the current cycle of U-20s."
Translation: Nasello is very highly thought of by the overseers of the national team. She was one of only a few first-time invitees to the Nov. 26-Dec. 3 camp in Chula Vista, Calif.
"Nothing like I’ve ever been to before," said Nasello on Monday, after scoring her 12th and 13th goals of the season. "The facility, the things you get … you walk in and there’s just a table, and it’s like your name there and you have jackets, sweatpants, clothes, cleats shin guards, everything you could ever want."
Her father, Tim, who was helping run the concession stands during Monday’s 5-1 win over River Ridge, said they knew of the national team’s interest, but thought Nasello’s chance wasn’t coming yet. Nasello, who turns 18 in April, was invited to the camp initially, only to be told they were going to take another look at the prospects born in 1999.
But that thinking apparently changed, and head coach Jaime Frias extended 20 invites to players born in 2000, including Nasello who got the call less than a week before the camp started.
"She’s been a little humble about this, which is weird," said older sister Lacy, who just completed her sophomore season at the University of Tampa. "She didn’t even tell me about it, my parents did. Syd’s been like ‘Oh it’s not that big of a deal’ blah, blah, blah. But she’s definitely excited."
Lacy is not surprised to see her sis getting a shot, noting she was always the best player in her age group.
"I always thought she would go on to that next level," Lacy said.
Nasello got a pretty good idea of the next level out in California. Sixteen of the 24 players are already participating in the first season of the U.S. Soccer girls’ development academy.
The Sunday-to-Sunday camp involved two training sessions a day, with a pair of scrimmages mixed in. One was against a semi-pro team from San Diego, the other an intrasquad contest.
And she held her own, scoring two goals in the latter.
"Obviously the nerves, the adrenaline was like crazy. It was my first camp so I felt like I had a little bit more to prove than anybody else," Nasello said. "I knew that (the other girls) were gonna be good. There was not one bad player, everybody was the same level. It was crazy."
Nasello hopes to get that call again for the next camp, one of four to be held in 2018, after which comes the decision on who will play in the U-20 World Cup.
Until then, there’s the matter of trying to finish off a stellar high school career with a championship. Land O’Lakes has reached the state semifinals each of Nasello’s first three seasons, losing in the Class 3A final to American Heritage in overtime her freshman year.
Nasello scored 21 goals that season, and after Monday’s performance — which gave the Gators first place in 3A-District 8, dominating the second half against a strong Royal Knights team — she has 75 on her career.
All of her ability was on display. Nasello, who can’t do much about her (unlisted) height disadvantage, but has added muscle in the weight room, blasted a goal off a cross from Ashley Doers.
Later, her second score was much more subtle, a chip shot from the top of the penalty box with the goalie off her line.
And the near third goal was perhaps the most impressive, a dazzling dribbling display around five defenders that ended with a shot Nasello pulled about a foot left of the post.
Coach Vicky King even pulled Nasello off the front line to help slow down a high-scoring Knights attack, and she ended up clearing away a couple would-be shot attempts.
"She’s capable of playing anywhere," King said. "I think she’s stronger, has a little bit more size. Her dead balls (free kicks) have been pretty good this year."
King’s also been impressed at how Nasello has handled some of the non-soccer stuff.
"Great leader on the field, with her skill — just playing the game. You know that you’re a marked player, so you just have to play. Ignore the fans, all the outside things, and just play," King explained.
The Gators’ only defeats are to Newsome, which was 10-0 entering this week, and a 1-0 defeat to Lecanto — the game that Nasello missed to be in California.
"I wish it had been a little longer," she said of the experience at the Elite Athlete Training Center. "This is everything I’ve worked for."
Again, there’s a long way to go before playing a World Cup, much less the under-20 and/or under-23 sides.
But she’s in the pool. And one ardent supporter thinks she’ll make a big splash.
"Oh, I can totally see it, her playing in a World Cup," Lacy said. "This is just the first step in it becoming a reality for her. I think it will happen."