Jay DeMerit's route to soccer success is one of the most unusual around. Typically, for an American to get a chance play in Europe, he has to establish himself as a star on a team in this country's Major League Soccer (MLS) and hope for an invitation to the much, much more competitive european leagues.
After graduating from the University of Illinois-Chicago, where his team had made the NCAA playoffs, DeMerit remained undrafted by MLS. Because he had a Danish grandfather he could legally work in Europe. DeMerit moved to England and tried to find a team to play for.
English Football is a stratified system, with the best teams in what's called the Premiership. But unlike the NFL or other American sports leagues, if a team doesn't perform well, they are sent down to a lower level of competition. Essentially the whole organization is sent to the minors.
DeMerit's start was with a team at the ninth tier, playing for a few pounds a week. After a move to a seventh tier team, he caught the eye of the manager of Watford, a premier league team that counted Elton John among its fan base. DeMerit's play at Watford finally got him the attention of the American soccer leadership. No wonder his nickname on the national team is "Rags to Riches."
If you aren't aware, the next World Cup gets underway from South Africa this June. The US faces a big challenge from the start when they face England on June 12.