Over the last several weeks, Inside Minnesota Soccer has been reporting on Cody Cropper, the 15 year old Minnesota Thunder Academy goalkeeper who had planned on traveling this week to Wolverhampton FC in England for his third and final trial for a spot on the club’s youth academy. IMS conducted an interview with Cody just last week.
Cody’s fortunes took a wild turn this past week. Some might call it luck, but the reality is, it’s the culmination of Cody’s hard work and his parents Lezli and Joe’s diligence in making sure Cody had every opportunity afforded him.
It’s 3:30, I’m still with this client and I don’t even know if this guy is who he says he is and he wants my son to come to Florida…on a plane…in two hours!
Lezli Edson – Cody Cropper’s mother
Last Wednesday afternoon, Lezli Edson, Cody’s mother, was meeting with a client away from her office. It was 3:15 in the afternoon and her cell phone chirped. Edson answered–the caller on the other end was looking for Cody Cropper. Lezli, protective as all mothers would be, asked who was inquiring. The voice identified himself as Wilmer Cabrera, U.S. Soccer’s U-17 National coach at the Residency Program in Bradenton, Florida. Cabrera explained that an opportunity had arisen and he’d like Cody to come and train with the team in Bradenton as soon as possible.
When Edson asked the U-17 coach what ‘right away’ meant, he said he could book a flight that left the Twin Cites at 5:30 … that same day! Lezli explained, “It’s 3:30, I’m still with this client and I don’t even know if this guy is who he says he is and he wants my son to come to Florida…on a plane…in two hours!” Edson said that Cabrera had me on one line and US Soccer’s travel agent on the other line. “He was switching back and forth and trying to make this work.”
Cody’s mother asked if she could book the flight on Thursday instead and the voice on the other end came back quite serious. Cabrera left little doubt, they needed Cody down there that evening so he would be on the training grounds Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m. “They said they wanted Cody to get three solid days of training in before evaluating him and making a decision if he would stay with the team permanently,” said Edson.
The U-17 National Team Residency camp is in Bradenton, Florida which is near Sarasota, and is part of the IMG Academies. IMG also runs their own soccer, golf, and tennis academies among other sports. US Soccer provides their own staff for the soccer training and uses all other staff and facilities of IMG. Their are 40 players in the program with 4 goalkeepers included. The last and only Minnesota player to be part of the U-17 residency program was Abdusalam Ibrahim who was was born in Ethiopia. Ibrahim attended Richfield High School until being called into the US Soccer youth training facility. Ibrahim went on to become a Generation Adidas Player and is the second youngest player to be picked in the MLS Draft at 15. Freddy Adu is the youngest. Ibrahim was picked by FC Dallas in the ’07 draft and was traded to FC Toronto last season. Other notable U-17 graduates are Landon Donovan, Bobby Convey, DaMarcus Beasley, Kyle Beckerman, Oguchi Onyewu, and Freddy Adu.
Edson, finally being convinced, found a flight that left a short while later sometime after 6. Within minutes the coach said “We can do that, do you want to book the flight?” It was then that it occurred to her, and she asked, “Who’s paying for all this?” He assured her that U.S. Soccer was picking up the tab for the whole trip and the residency camp itself. Edson said, “I guess you can book the flight.”
Cody was to pack a bag and get ready to go – NOW! When she asked what he should pack, Cabrera said, jeans, shorts, a sweatshirt a few other things – we’ll provide the rest. He then took Cody’s shoe, glove, and uniform size and said he’ll have all the equipment he needs waiting for him in Florida. According to Edson, the coach said that there was one more thing. He had about 25 pages of paper work that need to be filled out and signed and a physical form that needed to be filled out by his doctor. They all needed to be returned to U.S Soccer before Cody could step on the field. Lezli told me, “That was no problem for me, I work in the insurance business!”
So she prepared to get to work, but first there was the small detail of letting Cody know. When she called home she asked Cody what he was doing the next several days. He fumbled through his schedule. She then asked him if he wanted to try out with the U-17 National team? Cody’s response? “Mom, that isn’t even funny. You shouldn’t kid about something like that.” She continued to try to convince Cody and that he needed to get ready and pack a bag. Cody was still not convinced and called his father, Joe. Cody asked his dad, “Did you talk to mom?” Joe answered that he had and said, “What did your mom tell you?” Cody was having no part of that and asked, “No, you tell me first what mom told you.” Eventually, Cody packed a bag and was off to Florida for his trial.
The next morning at 7:00 a.m., Edson got a phone call from one of the assistant coaches for the team. Cody was on the field warming up but couldn’t step onto the training grounds to practice because the team was still waiting for the paper work from the doctor giving the young goalkeeper the green light to play. Edson got on the phone right away and said the doctor’s office was more than cooperative at this point. She said, “The one coach was sitting at the fax machine and the other coach was on the field with the team. As soon as the paper work came through the fax, he called the field coach to let them know he was good to go.”
Edson shared with me over the weekend that the word was positive from the coach on Cody’s performance. The Minnesota goalkeeper was enjoying his time there and had gone bowling with the guys on Friday evening. However, there was a snag. Cabrera had called her and said half the team was leaving for a tournament the following week that will take place in Chile. The other half of the team would play some scrimmages with MLS teams as they start their spring training. If Cropper was asked to stay with the team, he would have to make a tough decision because he would not be allowed to leave for his third trial at Wolverhampton. The family struggled with the decision over the weekend, not knowing if Cody would be asked to stay, although the staff had made it sound favorable for young Cropper.
Yesterday afternoon, Lezli received the phone call from the U-17 staff, requesting that Cody become the newest member of the USSF Residency Program. Joe, Lezli and Cody all agreed, this would be a great opportunity that couldn’t be passed up. Edson spoke this weekend about the possibility of Cody leaving so quickly and said if it happened it was going to be hard to have him go so abruptly like this. She said, “He doesn’t even have his license yet. In fact he doesn’t even have a permit. He’s always too busy with soccer to have time for his permit.”
I talked to Cody by phone on Monday evening. He was doing homework and preparing to pack his bags when we spoke — he will be leaving for Florida on Wednesday. He said he didn’t believe his mom when she first told him. “I was shocked and really excited.” Cody told me that they are currently in talks with Wolverhampton and that U.S. Soccer has agreed to work with him in arranging another trial with the team at a later date, possibly a year or two down the line. Cody’s mom told him the good news Monday afternoon. He said, “My mom and dad both told me they were very proud of me.” Minnesota’s Cody Cropper will soon be in the company of a very elite group of soccer players in the U.S.
Congratulations to Cody Cropper and to the Cropper family for this outstanding success story. Also, thanks to Lezli Edson for letting Inside Minnesota Soccer in on the story as it was happening.