Raheem Sommersall’s whirlwind summer has taken him from the pitches of the USL League One to the various nations of the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.
CONCACAF, or the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, hosts a 22-team tournament to determine five of the eight bids up for grabs.
Sommersall and his native Saint Kitts and Nevis squad secured one of the spots, finishing atop their four-team group by earning a win and a draw in their two matches.
The 22-year-old defensive midfielder is playing in his first season with FC Tucson, and made seven appearances with his national team, guiding the Caribbean country into the eight-team Olympic qualifier to be held at a time to be determined later this year.
Sommersall, who has an assist in 15 appearances with the Tucson side, said that playing for his home country is a dream come true.
“I’ve been with the youth setup over the years and this year I was a captain, so it was a good experience,” he said. “Being in that moment, I really can’t explain it, but you are just in the moment and it was truly a blessing to be a part of the team.”
The tiny island nation, which sports a population of 54,821, will compete against the likes of the U.S., Mexico, Canada and several Central American countries for the right to compete in the 2020 games, held in Tokyo.
CONCACAF has two berths in the 16-team Olympic Football Tournament, consisting mostly of players under the age of 23.
First-year FC Tucson coach Darren Sawatzky is thrilled to see Sommersall and his home country thrive on the international stage.
The key for Sawatzky, who has managed the Guam national football team, is to get players acclimated with the sport at its highest level. It’s also about giving your players the chance to sport their home country’s colors, he said.
“Anytime you’re in player development, you support a player’s ability to play for their country—that is an incredible experience,” Sawatzky said. “Raheem has worked extremely hard and is very deserving of the wonderful opportunity. He’s a very good player and we love what he brings to the club.”
Sommersall said he’s eagerly awaiting the next round of qualifying, where he’ll once again don the country’s tri-colored kit with an Olympic appearance at-stake.
“It means everything to me,” Sommersall said. “I’m probably one of a few players that plays overseas as a professional from a small island of 50,000 or so people. So, just representing and showing youngsters coming up that anything is possible. It’s truly a blessing.”
Sommersall knows that he’ll be called away for national team duty at some point this fall, when FC Tucson’s playoff push will be at its height.
For now, he’s doing everything he can to help the squad qualify for the four-team playoffs in USL League One, with FC Tucson sitting three spots out of the last spot as of Monday afternoon.
“My main goal in Tucson is to make the playoffs and then move into the championship round,” Sommersall said. “I’m confident for that, so right now we just have to stay focused. Obviously, we’d love to win every one of our matches, but as long as we don’t lose, we collect points, and that’s huge for us.”
Sommersall and his FC Tucson teammates play in Tucson against Orlando City B and Chattanooga this Saturday, August 24 and next Friday, August 30 at Kino North Stadium (2500 E. Ajo Way).