The rise of Caleb Wiley continues.
On Wednesday, the Atlanta United Homegrown was called up by U.S. Soccer to join the U-20 men’s national team at the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup. The tournament takes place May 20-June 11 and will be played in Argentina.
This marks the second major achievement Wiley has reached with U.S. Soccer in the past month. In April, the Atlanta native earned his first callup to the senior men’s national team. He entered the Allstate Continental Clásico between the United States and Mexico as a substitute to make his debut on April 19.
Now, he’ll have the chance to continue making a name for himself on the international stage, representing Atlanta on a list of some of the brightest young American stars.
“I think it’s just how far I’ve come,” Wiley said. “I never expected to be part of the senior squad this early in my career. And so, you start thinking about all the little things that I’ve done in my soccer career, even in the Academy days and how it’s led up to that point, and how important they are.”
Wiley joined the Atlanta United Academy at the age of 11 as a member of the club’s inaugural U-12 team in 2016. He rose through the Academy, signed a Homegrown deal and made his debut for Atlanta United in 2022. And he did so in memorable fashion – scoring his first career MLS goal in the club’s 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City to open the season.
The 18-year-old has been on a strong run of form for Atlanta United in 2023. He’s grown into a regular in head coach Gonzalo Pineda’s starting XI, starting 10 out of Atlanta’s 11 MLS matches. He’s shown versatility and skill at multiple positions, filling the role as winger but also dropping to play fullback. On the year, he’s scored three goals, added two assists and earned Player of the Matchday honors for his historical performance in Atlanta United’s 3-0 shutout win over Charlotte FC on March 11.
“I mean it’s only a boost of confidence,” he said. “I can only go into the World Cup with my head held high and hope for the best, represent my country and have a good time.”
The callup means Wiley will miss some time with Atlanta United. He's expected to leave for U.S. camp following Atlanta’s match against Charlotte FC on Saturday. Ahead of the announcement, Pineda was asked by media last week if Atlanta United would release Wiley from his club duties so he could join the U-20s. Atlanta’s head coach responded that the club was “happy to do it” and that there's a plan in place for Wiley’s absence.
Pineda was also emphatic that the experience will continue to help Wiley build belief in himself. The confidence that comes from competing internationally at a high level could greatly serve the 18-year-old.
“The heart and passion that you have for those types of games are massively important for you as a player representing your country, family, everything,” Pineda said. “It’s a very good event. We’re supportive of that with Caleb. We think he’s going to have a great World Cup. He’s in very good shape. So, we wish him the best.”
The group stage for the FIFA U-20 World Cup begins May 20 and the Final is scheduled for June 11. As a member of Group B, the United States will face Ecuador, Fiji and Slovakia in the group stage. The top two finishers in each group will advance to the Round of 16 along with the four best third-place teams.
This year marks the 23rd world championship for this age group and the 17th appearance for the United States. As the Stars & Stripes seek to improve on their quarterfinal exit in their last appearance in 2019 and win the first-ever World Cup title for the men’s side, one of Atlanta’s own will be there.
“It’s one of the biggest tournaments for the youth age groups, and it’s been a long cycle with the U-20s, so I’ve been looking forward to it and I’m really excited,” Wiley said.