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Maryland's MacMath preps for U-20 World Cup with summer abroad


How Zac MacMath spent his summer vacation:

The junior goalkeeper at Maryland attended a training camp for the U-20 men's national team in San Jose, Calif. in late June and early July. After impressing during his time there, he was selected by U-20 coach Thomas Rongen for the Milk Cup, a tournament in Northern Ireland in July. In his two starts in that event, he notched shutouts, including in the final against the host country.

Following the Milk Cup, MacMath went to Liverpool where he trained with EPL side Everton. He went through the paces as if he was a member of the squad, eating breakfast at the team cafeteria with the likes of Tim Cahill and Phil Neville, then working out with Everton's goalkeeping coaches. At the end of the day, he didn't retire to a hotel or dorm. He caught a ride with Tim Howard back to Howard's spacious house in Manchester. Everton's goalkeeper and a U.S. national team star, Howard put MacMath up, fed him, and dropped goalkeeping knowledge on him whenever the opportunity presented itself.

"It was pretty cool," MacMath says with great understatement. "I am back at school now, training with the team, and a lot of guys ask me what it was like, the Milk Cup and then training with Everton. I just tell them it is something I won't forget."

The U.S. has a number of promising goalkeeper prospects, and MacMath is one of the brightest. He has been a fixture on the youth national team scene for years. He was on the roster for U-17 World Cup in 2007, and has been on U-18 and U-23 teams as well. If he is not the No. 1 goalkeeper for the U-20 side than he is 1A, on equal footing with Cody Cropper, who plays for Ipswich Town in England, and potentially Samir Badr, who is in Portugal with FC Porto.

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MacMath is the only one of that trio not playing professionally, which was why the Everton experience was important. (He previously had training stints with Stuttgart in Germany and a team in Belgium.) The workout was the brainchild of Tim Mulqueen, the U-20 assistant coach, who coached Howard in youth soccer and in MLS.

"Thomas [Rongen] likes his guys to be playing professionally, and so it is important for me, for the upcoming U-20 World Cup [in Colombia next summer] to be in that environment and see how things are done," MacMath says.

Howard was constantly in his ear, MacMath says. At the start of the first day of training, Howard noted that MacMath was anxious and talked to him about how he controls his emotions before big games. "He talked to me about enjoying the big games, enjoy the moment rather than worrying."

"[But] more than just the stuff he was saying, just watching him go about his business, how he approaches the job, that was what I took away the most."

MacMath's Maryland teammates who peppered him with questions about the experience at Everton are likely to hit him with a different question come December, when Maryland's season ends. Will MacMath turn pro? He is sure to have opportunities to join an MLS team or a club overseas, and will have to decide between turning pro or another season of college. He could also wait to make a decision until after the U-20 World Cup next summer, giving scouts another opportunity to see him play.

"Like at the Milk Cup, you know there are going to be scouts there from the biggest clubs, and so you just try and play the best you can and hope they take notice," MacMath says. "But more than anything I am looking forward to hopefully being part of that World Cup team next summer. It is a great group and we've shown we can play well together."