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Sebastian Soto
Sebastian Soto started playing soccer when he was three years old. Photo courtesy of U.S. Soccer
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San Diegan selected for men’s soccer team attempting to qualify for Olympics

REGION — Former Carlsbad Lightning and San Diego Surf forward Sebastian Soto was among the 20 players selected today for the under-23 U.S. men’s national soccer team that will attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

The team is scheduled to begin play in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship next Thursday in Guadalajara, Mexico, against Costa Rica. The top two teams in each four-team group will advance to the semifinals which will be played March 28. Both semifinal winners will qualify for the Olympics. The  U.S. is seeking to qualify for the Olympics in men’s soccer for the first time since 2008.

Players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997, were eligible for selection. The qualifying tournament had been scheduled for last March but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The eligibility date remained unchanged following the postponement.

Players selected to play for the U.S. in qualifying will not necessarily play in the Olympics should the U.S. qualify.

The 20-year-old Soto began playing soccer when he was 3 years old. He played with the Carlsbad Lightning’s U-7 to U-12 teams, then with San Diego Surf from U-12 to U-16.

Soto joined Real Salt Lake during the 2015-16 season, led the U-15/16 Development Academy in scoring for the 2016-17 season, with 31 goals in 29 games and the U-18/19 Development Academy in scoring for the 2017-18 season with 42 goals in 27 games.

Soto made his professional debut with the German second-division team Hannover 96 in 2019, signed with the second-division English team Norwich City on July 28, loaned to the second-division Dutch team SC Telstar in August and recalled by Norwich City in January after scoring seven goals in 12 games.

Soto has played with the U-17, U-19, U-20 and U-23 national teams. Soto scored twice in his U.S. men’s national team debut Nov. 16, a 6-2 victory over Panama.