Experience depends on how you define it.
On August 28, Chicago Fire rookie Matt Polster was called up to the United States Under-23 Men’s National Team training camp roster, his first international call-up at any level. Of the eight midfielders selected, he’s the only one without a national team cap, and the latest to sign his first professional contract.
But factoring in recent form, Polster rates as highly as anyone in the group, having made the most league appearances of all eight players in the calendar year, with 25. Only Luis Gil’s 22 appearances are even close behind. U-23 team head coach Andi Herzog has clearly been impressed with the play of the SIU-Edwardsville product in his debut MLS season, and the 22-year-old is relishing the opportunity.
“I’m pretty excited,” Polster said. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was young. Finally getting the chance to represent the country is something I’ve always wanted to do, and to play with some of the best players in the country.”
The call-up gives Polster a chance to train with the team from Aug. 30 to Sept. 8 in Manchester, England, as well as potentially compete in friendlies against England (Sept. 3) and Qatar (Sept. 8). Polster will hope to earn a role in 2016 Olympic qualifying competition – which begins Oct. 1 – and ultimately a seat on the plane to Rio de Janeiro next summer.
“I’m excited to show what I can do, and in the two matches, do what I normally do,” Polster said, “and hopefully make the Olympic team.”
There will be plenty of competition. Three players -- Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham) and Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC) -- have already made senior national team appearances and are held in high regard. However, only Polster and Trapp are true defensive midfielders. The other six tend to have more of an attacking mindset, particularly players like Gedion Zelalem (Arsenal) and former Fire midfielder Benji Joya (Club Necaxa).
The Olympics are a long way off, and Polster has plenty of work to do. But his selection gives him the chance to work his way up in the eyes of the national team staff.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity," Polster said. "Hopefully this is just the beginning. I want to represent myself to the fullest and contribute to the group any way I can."