06/09/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/09/2023 23:46
CAMP MURRAY, Wash. - Since childhood, being on the soccer field has always come naturally for Cpl. Matthew Solis. His natural talent has made him one of the most elite soccer players in the U.S. Army, as he suits up for the All-Army soccer team.
"I have been playing for as long as I can remember, through middle school, high school. High school is when I noticed I was good. I was the first freshman to start on varsity and be selected for all league, all state," said Solis, a pharmacy technician with the 156th Information Operations Battalion.
Solis moved to Washington in 2012 due to his dad's active-duty Army career, which brought him to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He credits soccer for getting through many moves.
"We got bounced around. Soccer and family have been my stability," said Solis.
After high school Solis played collegiately for Pierce College, then Trinity Lutheran College in Everett, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics school. After joining the Guard, Solis got involved in the JBLM football club, a base soccer team that supports Soldier-athletes who continue to play sports at a high level.
"I was playing in tournaments with them and that led to getting involved in the All-Army soccer team," said Solis.
To make the team, JBLM team coaches first had to determine whether Solis could compete at that level. He then needed to pass the All-Army sports selection criteria. Candidates are ranked based on experience and accomplishments in the sport. He also required recommendations from his leadership and team director and had to pass character and sportsmanship criteria.
Once crossing those hurdles, he still had to try out.
"With All-Army soccer, you go down to Fort Hood and you go to a camp," said Solis. "There is a three-week trial period, so just because you are at camp doesn't mean you are on the team."
During camp, there are a series of cuts from 40 players to the final 18 who make the team.
"There was a time during the final cuts that I was nervous. There is a lot of great competition in the Army, people that played professionally, college, all types of backgrounds, so many great players," said Solis. "I was worried during the very last cuts but was so relieved to make the team."
For Solis, the experience has been surreal. He is playing soccer against the best in the other services and competing at the Department of Defense's highest level. It makes those drill weekends back at the Information Operations Readiness Center that much more special.
"Most of the time, it is active-duty personnel that get called up for this, so [my fellow Soldiers] are pretty ecstatic that I get to do this," said Solis.
He hopes to make the All-Armed Forces Team next.
"You get to travel and play against military teams from other countries and play in tournaments, so like the World Cup but for military," said Solis.
He is also playing this season for Cultures United Football Club in the United Premier Soccer League, the fourth-tier soccer league in the United States.
"I am just trying to play at the highest level that I can and continue to play," said Solis. "I am just glad to be in the unit. I have a great support system in my family. They have given me the chance to do these things."