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It’s every young soccer player’s dream to one day represent their national team. Homegrown forward Jackson Hopkins was able to live out that dream after being a late addition to the U.S. U-20 National Team to replace Obed Vargas at the 2022 Concacaf Under-20 Championship. After taking part in his first U-20 National Team camp only weeks before and narrowly missing out on a roster spot for the tournament, the call to join up with his compatriots was a welcomed surprise.

“I didn’t know if it was real or not,” Jackson Hopkins said. “I got on my phone, and I saw that I got a call from the National Team and that I was going to fly down on Friday. I was excited to be part of the tournament since it was my first camp with the National Team at any level.

After Hopkins arrived in Honduras for the tournament, the Homegrown didn’t have to wait long to make his debut for his country. On June 25, the U-20 USYNT were up 4-0 against Nicaragua when Hopkins saw his number light up on the substitution board in the 74th minute.

“It was awesome,” Hopkins. said. “It was the Round of 16 in a major tournament. We ended up scoring again, so it was great to celebrate with everyone and be on the field for the U-20 national team. It’s not an experience that everyone gets to have so it was definitely cool.”

The U.S. defeated Nicaragua 5-0 to advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament and it was a surreal moment for the D.C. United youngster. The U-20’s continued to make history and after subsequently beating Costa Rica 2-0 in the quarterfinal, qualifying them for the 2023 U-20 World Cup in Indonesia, then winning 3-0 against the host country, Honduras, to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in Paris—the first time the team has qualified for the Olympics since 2008. Hopkins played a role in that historic win after coming off the bench in the 71st minute.

2022 has been a remarkable year for Hopkins as he has made both his D.C. United and U.S. National Team debuts within two months. The midfielder signed as the 18th Homegrown Player in D.C. United history in April and made his MLS debut days later on April 17th, 2022, appearing in six matches across all competitions. When asked about his experience at both the club and national team level, especially in training, Hopkins said:

“It was pretty similar. It's super intense, everyone is working hard to get better. At D.C.United, it's more focused on the game tactics each week since we are always together. We already know how each other plays. When you’re with the National Team, everyone is still trying to figure each other out and build chemistry.”

Born in Fredericksburg, Va., Hopkins joined the D.C. United Academy at 14-years-old in 2018. He had a brief stint with the New York Red Bulls Academy in 2021 before returning to the D.C. United Academy that same year. Now he has set his sights on breaking into the U.S. team to continue growing as a player.

“My goal is to be part of this team and for that to happen, I have to keep doing well with D.C. United and here with the National Team,” Hopkins said. “I definitely want to be a part of the U-20 World Cup team next May. This is a great start but I want to continue to do well."

After topping Group E and defeating both Nicaragua and Costa by a combined 7-0, the U.S. sets its sights on winning the Men’s CONCACAF U-20 Championship. Despite being just 18, Hopkins understands the importance of competing in such big international tournaments at an early age.

“It's my first time with the National Team so I'm learning from my teammates and learning how everything works. It’s great to be training with a bunch of guys that are in similar situations as me, being young and signed. It was definitely cool being around them and training with them every day.”

Hopkins and the U.S. now face the Dominican Republic in the finals, Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on FS1 and TUDN, after they beat Guatemala in a 4-2 penalty kick shootout.