From Eden to India: Booth's Journey Continues at the U-17 World Cup

Taylor Booth has spent most of his last few years traveling the world chasing his soccer dreams.  Still just 16 years old, he has been to Spain, Germany, Croatia, Honduras, Panama, Argentina and Japan.  He has trained with residential academies in Casa Grande, Arizona, and Bradenton, Florida.

Such is the life of a rising star.

For all of his adventures, cultural lessons and growth on the soccer field, sometimes he just misses a home-cooked meal with his family.  Whether it’s his mother’s lasagna or homemade rolls with jam, sometimes Booth sits in his hotel room and yearns for those meals.  And, of course, there are the brownies for dessert.

“Her brownies are something else,” Booth said.  “You don’t have your mom’s meals every night.  But there are some sacrifices you have to make to get to the next level.  I love traveling and seeing all the places you go.  Experiencing the food and culture is always so much different than the U.S.  It’s crazy to experience that.”

His latest journey has the Eden, Utah native in India with the U.S. U-17 National Team for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.  It’s both a dream and a rite of passage for developing players aspiring to professional and international careers.

“I was super excited.  I’ve been working for this for a year and a half with the 17s,” he said.  “For it to finally pay off and find out that I will be going to India is cool.”

A talented player with a drive to reach his dreams on the field, Booth has been a consistent call-in for U.S. Youth National Teams since he was 13.  Developing in La Roca in Utah, he left for the RSL Academy in Arizona when he became eligible.  From early on, he showed an uncommon ability on the ball and savvy for the way the game is played that has made him a perfect fit in the middle of the park in several different roles.

“Taylor certainly has the capability to play multiple positions.  Right now, I’d classify him as a central player.  You can plug him into multiple roles – as a box-to-box, a holding mid or even as an attacking mid.  Good movement off the ball, smart technical ability on the ball and his passing ability is high level,” Real Salt Lake General Manager Craig Waibel said.  “We think he’s got the potential to continue that development in the center channel.”

He has played primarily as a holding midfielder at the national team level and in more of an attacking role with the RSL Academy.  In either capacity, he thrives in being active and getting other players included.

“I just love to be on the ball, have the ball at my feet and get players involved around me,” he said.

Playing now under John Hackworth at the international level and Martin Vasquez with the RSL Academy, he has a pair of uniquely motivating coaches that have a history of developing young talent and getting the most out of their players.

It’s something he noticed in Casa Grande and something that has continued with the U.S. in Bradenton as the team has prepared with several camps ahead of the trip to India.

“They push you and have high expectations every single day,” Booth said.  “You have no choice but to put in 100% every single day.  You can’t take days off.”

That mentality will be crucial in India as the U.S. National Team readies to face India, Colombia and Ghana in the Group Stage starting on Friday.  The U.S. will seek to reach the Round of 16 and beyond for the first time since 2011.  After advancing out of the Group Stage in five straight tournaments from 2003-2011, the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2013 tournament and was knocked out in the Group Stage in 2015.

Booth is part of a strong group of players coming through the MLS Academy system and continues a steady stream of talented players in the Real Salt Lake Academy that has burst to the forefront in recent years with five players from the organization playing with the U.S. U-20s at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the explosion of young talent contributing for RSL each week.

“It’s cool for our organization to see this and someone with Taylor’s talent is great for us,” Waibel said.  “It’s part of the progression of every athlete.  There are a lot of young, talented players, but progression and evolution have to be the main focus in what we do.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Taylor play for more than one of our teams in the next 6-8 months.  He certainly has pro potential at this point of his career and we want to make sure we foster that the right way.”

When Booth finishes at the World Cup, he will finally start playing close to home on a more consistent basis with the Real Salt Lake Academy in Herriman.  Just 90 minutes from his childhood home in Eden, it will be the first opportunity in several years for his family to see him play on a regular basis.

“It’s going to be awesome.  I’ve been looking forward to it,” he beamed through the phone.  “As much as I play, they never really get a chance to see me play.”

As much as he enjoys the prospect of playing in front of friends and family, there’s a hint in his voice that he is also thinking about the unmistakable aroma of his mother’s fresh brownies.