Sports

Wenzel prepping for World Cup in Korea

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

It's been an around-the-world-and-back summer for Federal Way teenager Danny Wenzel — literally.

The 17-year-old is currently at home in Federal Way, but that won't last long. Next week, Wenzel, one of the best young defensive midfielders in the country, will depart for South Korea to take part in the 2007 FIFA Under-17 World Cup. The tournament will run Aug. 18 through Sept. 9 across eight venues in South Korea.

The U.S., who was one of the seeded teams in the World Cup draw, opens their campaign against Tajikistan on Aug. 20, then faces Tunisia on Aug. 23 and concludes group play on Aug. 26 against Belgium. The U.S. will play Tajikistan and Tunisia in Changwon before heading to Cheonan to face Belgium.

All 52 matches of the tournament will be broadcast by ESPNU and ESPN360.com, with all three of the USA’s group matches being aired live on ESPNU. In addition, the USA’s second match against Tunisia on Aug. 23 will be simulcast live on ESPN2 at 12:45 a.m. Every live match on ESPNU will be re-aired at a later time to accommodate U.S. viewers.

But the World Cup later this month won't be Wenzel's only plane trip of the summer.

The midfielder received another honor in early June when he was contacted by 1860 Munich, a professional team in Germany, and invited to train with the team. Munich 1860 plays in the second division of Germany's elite soccer league — The Bundesliga.

Wenzel was identified by German scouts at the recent CONCACAF U17 Qualifying Tournament in Jamaica, which the United States won. The training sessions were arranged through the coaching staff at the U.S. team’s Bradenton, Fla. Residency program.

Wenzel is currently living, training and taking high school classes in Florida at the prestigious IMG Soccer Academy. A bulk of the under-17 National Team trains there. The IMG Soccer Academy is a program that is fully funded by the United States Soccer Association. The program allows an athlete to finish four years of high school in an accelerated two and a half years, while giving them elite-level instruction in the sport.

Wenzel is scheduled to graduate from high school in December, which is a year and a half earlier than he would have attending a conventional high school. He has already committed to attend Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. on a full-ride soccer scholarship. Wenzel will enroll at Wake Forest beginning in January. Wake Forest lost in the national semifinals last season.

"Danny has had a lot of European professional interest and I’m sure if he has an outstanding World Cup that interest will become even more intense," said Tom Wenzel, Danny's father. "He has had offers, but none attractive enough to forego a Wake Forest education. If after the World Cup he receives an outstanding offer, then we would have to seriously consider it. But once you go pro, you give up your NCAA eligibility and you would have to fund your own education in the future. A Wake education is probably about $250,000 for four years.

"A more likely scenario would be to go to Wake for a couple of years and then turn pro. In that case, he could always go back and complete his education in the future."

Besides Jamaica, Wenzel has also played soccer in Germany, Belgium, New Jersey, South Korea, Hondorus, Florida and Guatemala over the past five months.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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