Matthew Olosunde’s soccer journey started just a few miles up Interstate 95 from Talen Energy Stadium. Now the 20-year-old defender is on the verge of making his senior U.S. national team debut there.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in Trenton, Olosunde has been in Manchester United’s academy system since he turned 18. He played for a youth team in Princeton, and spent some of his early teenage years at the New York Red Bulls’ academy. That’s where he was spotted by U.S. national team scouts, who invited him to the now-defunct full-time residency program in Bradenton, Fla.
In 2015, Olosunde was part of the U.S. team that played at the FIFA under-17 World Cup. That squad had a raft of future pros, including Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, and the Union’s Auston Trusty.
Olosunde drew the interest of foreign clubs, including one of the most famous of all: Manchester United. The English giant had invited him over for a few trials, and liked what he showed.
He also had a scholarship offer from Duke, which was no small thing. But the choice wasn’t hard — especially since he was able to get a European passport through his father, Peter, who has British citizenship. That exempted Matthew Olosunde from the tough rules that govern England’s immigrant work permits.
Matthew sped up his high school workload to graduate from Princeton Day School early, and headed overseas in March 2016.
“It felt a bit unreal at the moment — it didn’t really sink in that, wow, Manchester United actually wants me to join their organization,” Olosunde said. “After getting an offer from Duke as well, it was hard, but at the same time, it was like, come on, there’s only one choice I can really make.”
This past season, Olosunde played 10 games for Manchester United’s under-23 team in the Premier League’s youth league. U.S. national team head coach Dave Sarachan was paying attention, and liked what he saw. That led to calling in Olosunde as one of 22 players on the roster for Monday’s game against Bolivia (6:55 p.m., Fox Sports 1 and UniMás).
“It worked out well in terms of positionally [and] our needs for this week,” Sarachan said. “It’s a good opportunity for him to get a taste of it at this level, and at the end of this week, we’ll have a better picture of what he’s all about.”
It also worked out well in terms of chemistry. In addition to knowing Pulisic, Olosunde knows midfielder Weston McKennie as an old residency classmate.
And there is the added bonus of being home, after being away for long enough to pick up a Mancunian accent.
“I don’t really want that accent. I’m not going to lie,” he said with a laugh.
Olosunde said he’ll have 15 to 20 family members and friends in the stands in Chester. He can’t help dreaming of making his senior national team debut in front of them.
“It would just be the best experience,” he said. “It would feel so good to be on my home turf and make such a great accomplishment happen so close to where I’m from. It would just feel amazing.”