Cameron Carter-Vickers: "It All Happened So Quickly"
March 29, 2015
LONDON—Last summer Cameron Carter-Vickers was a 16-year-old prospect playing for Tottenham's U-18 team. He held a U.K. passport but had never been in contact with England's soccer federation.
Today he is an essential player on the United States' under-20 national team, is preparing to represent the Yanks in the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, and is the captain of Tottenham's U-21 squad.
In case you're wondering—yes, his head is still spinning.
“I don’t think I would have believed it,” Carter-Vickers told American Soccer Now. “I don’t think I would have thought I would be playing for America. It all happened so quickly.”
The same goes with being named captain of Spurs' U-21 side.
“It surprised me a little bit. I think I am the youngest player on the team.”
While playing at a high level for both Spurs and the U.S. U-20 team are tangible achievements, what is even more interesting to Carter-Vickers are the feelings that he has developed while representing the United States on a regular basis.
Carter-Vickers grew up in an English household and as he developed into a top youth player, he was a fan of England’s national team. Last year, however, he was approached by U.S. Soccer about the possibility of playing for U.S. youth national teams. At that point, England had never shown interest in him.
So last summer Carter-Vickers obtained a U.S. passport and made his American debut in August with the U.S. U-18 team for a tournament in the Czech Republic. He shined there and was then called all the way up to the U.S. U-23 team for a game in Brazil. Since then he has settled with the U.S. U-20 national team, which will play in the 2015 World Cup this summer in New Zealand.
“I definitely feel more loyalties toward America right now,” Carter-Vickers said. “Through representing the country, I am seeing how passionate the players and fans are—it really makes me feel a part of the country. [On the field], I’ve really enjoyed it. You have to travel a lot and you get to go to a lot of different places but I think it’s helped to improve my football—going away, playing different styles.”
These days Carter-Vickers has completely bought into the U.S. national team. On his Twitter feed, his background picture shows him lining up with his U-20 teammates for the national anthem. He didn’t know any of the other U.S. U-20 players before last year but now they are all close friends.
His bond is tight with the United States but what would happen if England called him for one of its national teams?
“I think it always would be a tough decision but I like playing for America,” Carter-Vickers said. “Obviously, I would have to think long and hard about such a decision but at the moment I enjoy playing for America and I couldn’t see myself playing for England.”
U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos understands the situation with Carter-Vickers and is pleased with how he has responded.
“I don't feel like we're a club,” Ramos said. “I feel like you need to want to play for the United States. This is your country. This is not just a team. It's not like switching from Tottenham to Manchester United.
"To me this is a country and you have to care for your country. If you feel like you are prepared to do that, then I think you can be an important player for us. But if you don't believe in who we are, then this is not for you regardless of what player you are.
“Cameron has a strong connection with his father and that is important to him,” he continued. “That's how he identifies—so that's important to us. I was born in another country too. So I can relate. My family identifies more maybe with where I was born. For me, I'm American. I feel American, I care about our colors, and I want to make sure our players feel the same.”
There is just one more camp in April before World Cup training opens in May. While there are very good attacking players on this team, such as Rubio Rubin and Emerson Hyndman, the strength of this squad is in central defense. With Erik Palmer-Brown rejoining the team for the first time since he broke his metatarsal last fall, the backline is looking stronger than ever.
The potential partnership of Palmer-Brown and Carter-Vickers is one likely to be unveiled on Sunday’s friendly against England’s U-20 team. Both players are just 17 years old and are even eligible for the 2017 World Cup. Ramos recently said he felt that U.S. youth teams are “loaded” with central defenders—and Palmer-Brown and Carter-Vickers are a big part of that statement.
“It’s an incredible surprise because this is the best group of center backs that we have,” Ramos said.
Palmer-Brown only met Carter-Vickers on this trip and he believes the two complement each other well on the field.
“It’s been awesome,” Palmer-Brown said. “He’s a funny guy. He’s really strong too. We were doing this defensive drill and he posted me and just bodied me. He’s really strong. That was cool. For me, I’ve been adjusting to play left center back and he’s been playing right center back. It’s been fun partnering with him.”
“I think we are good in the back four,” he said. “Erik has come into this camp and I like playing with him. I didn’t really know much about him before this. I knew he played for Kanas City and was the youngest player in MLS and had Juventus interest. I think he’s a really good player. Physically, he’s very good.
"He’s very quick. The more we play together, the better we’ll become.”
In 2013 the U.S. U-20s faced a brutal challenge in the group stage, squaring off against Spain, France, and Ghana. In New Zealand the Yanks will have a much better chance of advancing as it will open up against Myanmar on May 30 followed by hosts New Zealand on June 2 and then finishing off group play against the Ukraine on June 5.
Carter-Vickers can't wait for the tournament to begin.
“Every group is hard at the World Cup but I think we definitely can go far,” Carter-Vickers said. “In Spain, we played Russia and that was a tough game and we came out on top. I didn’t play then but they tied Argentina in Argentina. We can do well against the stronger teams in the world.
"We’re all looking forward to it.”
Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.