Local soccer player called up to U-16 U.S. Women’s Youth National Team roster for training camp

Cali O’Neill is a sophomore at Seaforth.


Seaforth sophomore Cali O’Neill was one of 24 soccer players selected to the U-16 U.S. Women’s Youth National Team roster ahead of its first training camp of the year.

O’Neill is listed as a defender on the roster announced by U.S. Soccer on Feb. 12. The team will hold its training camp at the Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista, California from Feb. 22-29.

“I feel honored that I get the chance to play with some of the best players in the county,” O’Neill said. “I’m really looking forward to playing in a new environment and improving my skills with the amazing coaching staff.”

The squad will be coached by Brazil native and former professional women’s soccer player Patchy Toledo, who has coached the U-16 U.S. Women’s Youth National Team since 2022.

O’Neill is one of two players from North Carolina on the roster, joining North Carolina Courage Academy teammate Riley Kennedy from Holly Springs. O’Neill does not play on the Seaforth girls soccer team, but she has played club soccer with North Carolina FC Youth for eight years, spending four of those with the program’s NC Courage Academy.

This isn’t O’Neill’s first rodeo with the U.S. Women’s Youth National Team. She was also called up to the U-15 squad for its training camp at the Nike World Headquarters in Portland, Oregon in 2022.

A month before that, O’Neill participated alongside 59 other players from across the country in the U-15 Women’s Youth National Team Talent ID Camp also held in Chula Vista.

“I think going to these camps really helped me know what to expect and the standards that they hold you to,” O’Neill said. “I have also played with some of the players that I’ve went to camp with previously, and I know how they play.”

O’Neill also has a good idea of what her daily routine will look like during the camp. The mornings will consist of breakfast, a team meeting and a training session followed by recovery, lunch, individual player meetings and study hall in the afternoons.

“Dinner and additional team meetings are typical of the night schedule,” O’Neill said. “Some days we will have a team activity for team bonding which is always fun.”

Even though the camp only lasts a week, this time spent with the U-16 team can lead to greater opportunities with U.S. Soccer in the future.

All of the players called up to the training camp have a chance to play on the team that qualified for the 2024 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, which will take place in the Dominican Republic from Oct. 16 to Nov. 3.

“There’s steps leading up to that point,” O’Neill said. “If they view you as a player they want, you have to keep being invited back until that roster is names. These camps definitely play a big role in getting that exposure to them, as you’re being coached first hand.”