Jan. 11, 2016
by Tony Jones
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — On the eve of the 2016 spring semester at the University of Notre Dame, the Irish men’s soccer team has officially added the first piece of its 2020 recruiting class. Tommy McCabe (South Orange, New Jersey/IMG Academy — Bradenton, Florida), a talented midfielder who has spent the past three years in the United States Soccer Under-17 Residency Program, has signed a scholarship agreement and will begin taking classes at Notre Dame on Tuesday (Jan. 12).
McCabe is eligible to participate in spring practices with Notre Dame that open on Wednesday (Jan. 13), and will have four full years of eligibility beginning with the 2016 regular season. He is believed to be just the second early enrollee in the history of the Irish men’s soccer program, and the first since Brendan King in 2008.
“It’s good to get Tommy in early because it will give him a long preseason, where normally when the freshmen come in they have only two and a half weeks,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “This is a huge advantage for him to get into things and for us to see where he fits in. He has a tremendous wealth of experience and we have watched him for a number of years, and anyone who has played at the level he has played is going to be a great help to our program. We’re really looking forward to having him and are very excited for him to join us.”
McCabe has been a key contributor with the USMNT U-17 program since 2013, notching 23 career international caps during that time. He figures to be one of a number of players vying for vacancies in the Notre Dame midfield in 2016 that were left by MLS combine invitees and December graduates Patrick Hodan and Connor Klekota.
“There are other players like Oliver Harris and Blake Townes that were there (in the midfield) last year, and the sophomores who we didn’t really see in games as freshmen will get their chance in the spring,” Clark said. “I hope it’s a healthy competition for the team, that’s what the spring is about. Players are trying to establish where they’re going to fit into the lineup. Good teams have healthy competition, and with the games that we have to play in the spring it’s a fun time.”
Notre Dame returns to the practice pitch with its sights set on building upon a strong 2015 campaign that featured the program’s first Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship game appearance and its 10th national seed in the NCAA Championship since 2003. The spring is not entirely rooted in training alone, as a number of high quality games, that in past years have featured trips to a national soccer festival in Fort Wayne and an annual showdown with a level of the Mexico Men’s National Team at Alumni Stadium, allows Notre Dame to challenge itself against outside clubs during the formative offseason period.
“The nice thing about the spring is that there are games, so we will be able to get Tommy into games and see where he fits in,” Clark said. “The spring for us I think is the most important time of the year because it’s where you lay down the foundation for the New Year. January is the start of the preseason for us and normally with freshmen, when you don’t have them until August you’re trying to cram a lot of your teaching. Also from the academic point of view, he won’t be trying to navigate his way through the full academic side and the athletic side during his first semester. This will be good for our program, and very good for Tommy.”
5-11 – 165
Hometown: South Orange, New Jersey
High School: IMG Academy — Bradenton, Florida
Club Team: Players Development Academy (PDA)
PREP AND PERSONAL: Enrolled at Notre Dame in January of 2016 after spending the previous three years in the United States Soccer Under-17 Residency Program … becomes the second Irish player to have joined the program from the U.S. Soccer U-17 Residency Program, along with Brendan King (’12) … played for the U.S. U-17s in the 2015 U-17 World Cup in Chile … two-time National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Youth All-America selection (2014 and 2015) … competed during freshman season at the Delbarton School in New Jersey, winning the Non Public A state championship with the Green Wave after the team posted a 23-1 record … played on the club circuit with PDA, claiming the 2012 U-15 National Premier League (NPL) National Championship … son of Tom and Susie McCabe … has one sister, Maggie … father, Tom, was a goalkeeper at Princeton University … mother, Susie, played field hockey and lacrosse at Princeton … enrolled in Notre Dame’s First Year of Studies program.
Coach Clark On Tommy McCabe: “Tommy can play what they call the number six, which is a defensive midfielder, he can play a number eight, which is a two-way midfielder, and he can play a 10 (attacking midfield). The position I think he plays best is the six, defensive midfield player, and we didn’t have a true defensive midfielder in the lineup last year. We had one most recently with (Portland Timbers midfielder) Nick Besler (’15), who was a very talented defensive midfielder, and adding Tommy provides another option that gives us an opportunity to go back to that.”
Tony Jones, athletics communications assistant at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2012 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame softball and men’s soccer programs. A native of Jamestown, New York, Jones is a 2011 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and prior to arriving at Notre Dame held positions at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills.