Bayern Munich recently initiated a new program in partnership with Volkswagen called the FC Bayern World Squad, where it will give 15 international U-19 talents the opportunity to chase their dreams.
The players selected for the program have been digitally trained by professional Bayern coaches and equipped with individually tailored training plans. The highlight of the project is a match between the World Squad and the Bayern U-19s in Munich.
Representing the United States will be Lennyn Carreon and Samy Kolby, who met with BFW for an exclusive interview.
How they got here
For these two young Americans, this World Squad program represents an opportunity — something both players have worked hard to help carve out for themselves on the treacherous terrain that is the youth soccer landscape in the United States. Both are currently in Mexico preparing for their upcoming trip to Germany.
“Who wouldn’t want to be related with Bayern Munich? It’s a great achievement for me. I’ve had a lot of great adventures that soccer has brought me, but having this experience with Bayern Munich in being able to travel with Bayern Munich coaches and with this new team has definitely been a great experience,” said Carreon, a respectful and amicable California kid.
As for Kolby, his journey toward this started as an even younger player when he was a part of the now-defunct Global Premier Soccer-led Bayern Munich I.D. program. It may no longer be in existence, but it’s still proving that it could identify top, young talents.
“I’ve been to Munich before as part of an ID program in America. I was contacted about this program and registered. I’m very excited to be here in Mexico. It was about four or five years ago (when he first traveled to Säbener Straße) and since then I’ve played MLS Academy with Atlanta United, but before that I was with GPS and I got my start with them,” said Kolby, an easy-going and friendly North Carolina resident. “It was great to go there so young. I was nervous at the time, but it really helped me to get into the MLS (club) level and got my name around and help build my reputation. It was a great experience. Munich is a great city as well and it was one of the favorite trips of my life.”
As for how the players see themselves, Carreon is an attacker, who likes to use his skills and tenacity to create offensive opportunities, while Kolby is a slick, versatile playmaker, who is capable of shifting seamlessly to any midfield position.
“I’m an attacking player and I believe that my best abilities are in 1 v 1 situations and I feel like I have a lot of skills I can use to help me create opportunities and chances for my team,” Carreon said. “I am confident in my abilities in that way. The end goal would be to hopefully join one of (Bayern’s) academy teams and hopefully to be able to get into the second or first team.”
Kolby takes pride in the work rate he brings to the midfield.
“I try to adapt, so I can play in the middle, whether that’s defensive or attacking or even on the outside on the wings. I bring a lot of energy and do a lot of running,” Kolby said. “have a good engine, I’ve been told. I cover a lot of ground and put a lot of pressure on the other team, as well as creating attacking chances and doing my part defensively as well.”
When asked which Bayern Munich players they admire, the duo responded with some interesting selections. Carreon opted for club legend Franck Ribery — who has been playing his trade longer than Carreon has been alive, while Kolby chose Thiago Alcantara, who set the standard for silkiness within Bayern Munich’s midfield for years before leaving for Liverpool.
“There have definitely been a lot of great players through all of these years, but Franck Ribery is probably the player that my game would most resemble. We’re not the tallest players or the biggest, but we do have that skill and ability to create, so I think that is the player that I would connect myself with the most,” said Carreon. “Obviously, Robert Lewandowski being one of the greatest players ever, one of the best strikers, and being at his peak right now, he is also a player that I admire.”
For Kolby, Thiago set a standard for midfield play and flexibility.
“Obviously, he is at Liverpool now, but he was (at Bayern) for a very long time. He’s very smooth as a player and midfielder. I’ve always loved watching him and I got to meet him when I went to Munich. That was a cool experience as well,” Kolby stated.
The Early Days
To even make it this far in the journey towards the professional level, it takes a lot of support. Luckily for both Kolby and Carreon, they have had a lot of help along the way.
Like many young men and women from this generation in the United States, both Kolby and Carreon played with clubs in the now-defunct United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA — the DA for short). When the DA was unexpectedly shutdown, two new leagues emerged: The MLS Next League for boys, and the Girls Academy. Those platforms joined the ECNL in creating a complex mixed-use landscape for youth soccer in America.
Carreon played for Albion SC, while Kolby was part of Atlanta United’s youth program. Both have subsequently moved on to the MLS Next League, where Carreon stayed with Albion SC and Kolby played for Charlotte FC.
“I joined (The DA) when I was 13-years-old. When I joined, we were facing MLS clubs and that was something that was not available when you are playing recreational or even regular club soccer. It was a good experience and when you head over to showcases and you face other teams from around the country it’s a great opportunity to learn other styles and it was a great experience overall,” said Carreon, who signed with ASC San Diego in April. “There were always national team scouts and college scouts, so it was another great opportunity to get exposure.”
PLAYERS REVEAL— ASC SAN DIEGO (@ascsandiego) April 19, 2021
It’s with great excitement that we’re starting our roster reveal for the 2021 Season!!!!
Welcome, Lenny Carreon Garcia!! ALBION MLS NEXT developed player now signed with ASC San Diego!!#ASCSD #npsl #ALBIONPathway #MLSNEXT pic.twitter.com/GnOItk7ZJw
Kolby was a fan of the DA and what it offered to players.
“I liked that platform (the DA). It was competitive. You got to play other MLS teams, local teams, and got to do some travelling, so it was good. Obviously, it was always competitive, it was always tough, but it was a good preparation for (a program like) this. It definitely made me a better player,” said Kolby. “The platform in America has become very, very good. I don’t think there is that much of a gap anymore between American and Europe. Obviously there are little philosophies and cultural differences, but it’s very similar and both are good at developing young players from what I’ve seen.”
Going back even further, Carreon was not always a soccer standout. In fact, he played American football before lacing up his soccer boots — it was an experience that helped him identify the sport he loved early on.
“I started playing when I was seven-years-old, around 2010, which was around the time of the World Cup in South Africa. Believe it or not, I start playing American football first. My older brother was very into American football and with me being the younger brother I looked up to him and thought that I wanted to be a part of that. I quickly found out that it wasn’t the sport for me,” Carreon said with a smile.
“Then came the World Cup and I saw how my family and friends followed the games, so that definitely played a big part in me wanting to play soccer. I started with a Sunday league and things like that and it wasn’t until I was eight or nine-years-old, which wasn’t playing any really competitive soccer. When I started to reach a top level of (club) soccer, I started in the Development Academy and ever since then I feel like I’ve progressed and improved. All of my coaches along the way have played a big part, but I’d have to say my family — my parents and brothers — have played a big part in being supportive.”
For Kolby, soccer was ingrained in him early on by his father, Phil, who was a good player in his own right.
“My dad was a good player — a college player — and he was a big influence for me. He’s always trained me and helped me a lot. Whether that is with things that aren’t getting worked on at the club (practices) or whether it was just things that I need to work on and get better at. I still do a lot of training with him and he’s always been a great asset to me. I’ve had a lot of coaches, but there is a coach in Munich, Sebastian Dremmler, who kind of found me in a main ID camp five or six years ago and he’s been a big help to me in my career. He’s not on this trip, but he’s definitely been a big influence on me.”
It is not lost on either young American that the chance to train and learn from Bayern Munich’s coaches and with a international group of advanced players is a special opportunity. Both Kolby and Carreon are seeking to use this program as another stepping stone to achieving their dreams.
“This came up and it was great chance to get back with Bayern,” said Kolby. “It’s been very difficult and it always is if you try to play at a high level for a long time, and it never really stops being difficult. It always takes a lot of focus and self-belief to keep going. This is the point where you start seeing whether you are going to make it or not. It’s just about finding the right opportunities, whether that’s going to college for me in the U.S. or if some other opportunity presents itself in Europe. It’s an important time now and it’s just about what I want to choose as the pathway to achieve the goal.”
FIRST GOOOOOOOOOAL by Samy Kolby!#CharlotteFC pic.twitter.com/CGfrWFrTLB— Charlotte FC (@CharlotteFC) October 31, 2020
Carreon echoed Kolby’s sentiments and appreciates having the chance to take part in the program.
“This has been a great experience. Whenever you get a chance to train with professional teams and professional coaches, it’s great. Not everyone gets to experience this; it’s something unique and amazing. Being with other top talents and Bayern Munich’s staff is motivational and educational,” Carreon remarked. “I’ve been able to pick up things from other players coming form different nations. I’ve been able to learn a little bit about their cultures and playing styles as well as the little coaching sessions that we’ve had. It’s definitely something that I enjoy. My main goal is to play professional soccer at any level, so I have to wait and see what opportunities I can get.”
A total of 654 players from 64 nations showed off their skills in more than 1,200 short videos, thereby applying for one of the coveted squad places. The only requirement for participation was the year of birth, 2003 or 2004. The scouting and decision-making process was led by a professional coaching team with former Bayern captain and World Cup winner Klaus Augenthaler and international FC Bayern youth coach Christopher Loch.
The FC Bayern World Squad will conclude with a training camp in Munich for all selected talents. There, the young footballers have the chance to get to know FC Bayern even better and to compete in a match with the FC Bayern U-19s.
The six-part documentary about the FC Bayern World Squad will be shown on the FC Bayern YouTube channel from mid-August. There, fans can once again follow how the dream of becoming a professional footballer can turn into reality.