FENTON • As soon as he learned how to kick a soccer ball at the age of 3, Josh Sargent began mapping out his career plans.
"He told everyone that would listen that he was going to be a professional soccer player," said his mother, Liane.
Sargent remembers those early boasts.
"I was real little and people would just smile and say, 'That's nice,' " he said. "I'm not sure anyone took me seriously."
It is time to take Sargent seriously. Very seriously.
The native of O'Fallon, Mo., is inching closer to that lofty goal every single day.
Sargent has been playing throughout this year with the United States Under-17 Men's National Team.
On Saturday, he played for the U.S. Under-17 squad that fell 2-1 in penalty kicks to the St. Louis FC Under-18 Academy team in an exhibition match before 3,241 at Soccer Park. Sargent scored on a penalty kick in the third round of the shootout, drilling a hard shot into the lower right-hand corner of the net.
"It was a dream come true, really," Sargent said. "Just amazing. I knew in front of my friends and family I'd better make it or I'd hear about it for a long time."
Sargent, who attended high school at St. Dominic for his freshman and part of his sophomore years, is rapidly climbing up the soccer ladder.
He currently is attending school at the prestigious IMG Academy at Brandeton, Florida, where he trains under the guidance of the USMNT staff.
Of the approximately 400 players to go through the program to date, more than 120 have gone on to play professionally in the United States and around the globe.
Sargent, who is in his junior year, was selected to attend IMG in January and left home to hone his skills under the watchful eyes of some the best coaches in the country.
"It was the right move for me," he said. "It was hard leaving my family and friends, but it has definitely moved my game up a level."
Sargent, one of the top snipers on the USMNT, scored two goals and handed out an assist in a 9-0 win over Guatemala on Sept. 28.
"He has a ton of talent for his age," U.S. Under-17 coach John Hackworth said. "He has a tremendous work ethic. He trains the way he plays, all out. At this point. He's doing the right things and proving that he belongs."
On Saturday, he got to perform in front of his family as well as a large contingent of friends from St. Dominic, including Crusaders athletics director Jim Welby.
Despite leaving St. Dominic early, Sargent still keeps in touch with his high school buddies.
"He comes back whenever he gets a chance," Welby said. "Here was there a lot in the summer.
"He's still one of ours."
Sargent started as a point guard as a freshman on the St. Dominic basketball team. He never played soccer for the Crusaders, choosing instead to play on the select level for Scott Gallagher, and was recently ranked as high as No. 2 among high school players in the country.
The 16-year-old has been chosen to train with PSV Eindhoven in Holland and is leaving later this week.
"We are going over for seven days and there's a good chance they'll offer him a contract," said Jeff Sargent, Josh's father. "We'll come back and decide what to do."
Josh Sargent also had a tryout over the summer with Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer.
His trial with PSV Eindhoven, which has won 23 league titles, is just another step on a long road that could be coming to successful ending soon.
"Playing professionally is starting to become more of a reality," he said. "It's getting closer and closer."