Sporting Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury called it probably the highest honor of his soccer career Monday when he learned that he had been selected for the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team, which convenes Tuesday in Nashville, Tenn., for the final training camp before the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic qualifying tournament.
“It’s really an honor to be given this opportunity,” Bunbury said. “Really, it is once-in-lifetime thing and not many people get this chance.”
Bunbury, 22, technically is a dual citizen. He was born in Canada, “but I’ve spent most of my life in the U.S. and feel like more of an U.S. citizen. I wear that jersey with a lot of pride,” he said.
During his college career at Akron, Bunbury played for an NCAA championship. Last year, he helped Sporting KC reach the Eastern Conference final after winning the regular-season conference title. Both feats pale in comparison to a possible Olympic appearance.
“I’ve never been in a tournament scenario with the national team, so I’m very excited,” said Bunbury, who also has four appearances with the men’s national team.
Bunbury and the U-23s, which are favored in Group A, open qualifying March 22 against Cuba at LP Field in Nashville. Canada and El Salvador are in the field as well.
The top two from each pool advance to the semifinals March 31 at Livestrong Sporting Park.
“There’s going to be a lot of expectations, but we know that going in,” Bunbury said. “We can’t go into any game thinking we’ve got the game won by stepping onto the field even though we’re the favorites.”
The only downside for Bunbury will be missing Saturday’s home opener when Sporting KC takes on the New England Revolution at 7:30 p.m. at Livestrong Sporting Park.
“I wish I could be there, but I know the guys will do great,” Bunbury said. “It’s a bittersweet thing, but I am happy for this chance.”