The last of the World Cup soccer games ended just days before, but on July 13, Tor Fornelli and Daniel Chance strode out onto the soccer field and into a prestigious honor in the sport.
Fornelli and Chance, both from Lawrence, participated in the United States Youth Soccer Olympic Development regional program in Rockford, Ill.
Both Fornelli and Chance applied for spots on the United States Youth Soccer State Assn.
The association in the state of Kansas holds state try-outs and selects exceptional players from that pool for the state program. Fornelli and Chance both stood out enough to earn themselves a spot in the regional program July 13-17 in Illinois.
The Olympic Development Program began in 1977 to enforce high-level skills and training in exceptional players. Many participants in the program work up to the national level where their skills are noticed. Some of those players are even picked to form a national team for international competition, such as the World Cup.
Fornelli's mother, Joni, said that more than anything the program helped her son prepare to hit the soccer field for Lawrence High School next spring.
"He's been interested in soccer more than any other sport, so when he got the opportunity to do this program he wanted to play," Joni Fornelli said. "The program prepares young soccer players who want to go on to play in college too. It helps them to gain the skills that colleges might look for."
Fornelli and Chance participated on the state level of the program before being selected to move onto the regional level. During the state session, parents of both boys transported them to three training sessions in Emporia.
The Kansas team also played in Tulsa and Nebraska over the holiday season last year. They even practiced frequently at Arrowhead Stadium, the area's castle of American "football." To round out the busy schedule, the team played host to a mini camp in Kansas City, Mo.
During the regional program Fornelli and Chance participated in drills and training sessions throughout the morning and faced a selection of 12 teams from the states of Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota and Kentucky. The pair played against these teams in a round of night games during the program.
Fornelli said the new competition was different than that of his normal season play with the U14 Kaw Valley Force in the Heartland Soccer Premier League. But the different aspects at the regional levels have helped him learn a lot of things on the local field.
Fornelli hopes his newly acquired skills will earn him a spot on the junior varsity soccer team at LHS next year. He said he also planned to play for the Kansas City Blaze team in the premier league next spring as well.
"My goal for playing in high school is to make the junior varsity team and get some playing time," Fornelli said. "My goal with the Blaze is to maybe win the division next year."
Fornelli said he would like to play in college and possibly beyond, but he knows for sure he will apply again for the Development Program when the opportunity comes around again next year.
Daniel Chance, who will go into ninth-grade at Southwest Junior High, said he would be eager to return to the camp as well.
"He'd go every week if they would let him," Larry Chance, Daniel's father, said.