In the back of his mind, Josh Penn always knew where he was going to play college soccer.
When he was 11, he attended a camp at IU. Afterwards, IU head coach Todd Yeagley approached him and his parents saying that they would recruit him when the time came.
Yeagley remained true to his word.
“As a little kid, I always wanted to go there,” Penn said. “I kept going to other schools to see what was going on there but at the end of the day, Indiana, that’s what was best for me.”
Friends and family could tell that Penn was special from a young age. The way he played the game with pure speed and energy was unmatched at his level. He became so talented that he started playing up during his youth.
“He has a magical left foot,” family friend and former coach Jay Konrad said. “He loves being a kid every game that makes the big impact and has an outcome. He’s an attacker. He loves getting the best of who he’s matched up with and he’ll do whatever it takes to help his team win.”
Penn played one year of high school soccer at Naperville North High School in Naperville, Illinois before moving on to the U.S Soccer Development Academy. He’s played with Sockers FC the past three years.
Penn has scored 57 goals over the course of three seasons with Sockers FC. As a natural wing player, he’s become naturally gifted at creating opportunities and finishing most chances he’s given.
“My speed is probably my best skillset,” Penn said. “But my knowledge of the game is very high. I’m not a guy that’s just going to sprint at people. I know how to make my opportunities well and I can finish. I think from the wing I can score a lot of goals.”
Penn’s success in the Development Academy earned him an invite to the USMNT U-19 camp. During his time on the squad, he netted the final goal in USMNT U-19’s 4-1 win over Jamaica to finish top of the 2018 U.S. Soccer U-20 Men’s Invitational standings.
“My first camp was a bit nerve wracking but I thought it went well. But eventually I got called in and got to play in my first games,” Penn said. “Just knowing that I’m in that player keeps me motivated because you never know when someone’s going to take your spot or the next time you’re going to get called in.”
When it came time for Penn to finally make a collegiate decision, it remained as clear as the day he first knew he wanted to come to IU. When IU men’s soccer comes calling, it’s hard for a midwest kid to turn that offer down.
“For a midwest kid, IU holds some mystique,” Konrad said. “In the last 40 years they’ve been the most successful program and hold the most number of championships and a ton of other things. For a kid to see that and have the opportunity to play for Yeagley is an honor, it’s a dream for kids.”
Penn has the potential to be the next in line of phenomenal players to come through the IU pipeline.
He’s their highest ranked recruit and is ranked No. 12 in Top Drawer Soccer’s IMG Academy 150. Penn is ranked the No. 1 player in the Midwest region and is 2nd in the country in goals scored in the DAs.
Penn finds himself in an interesting spot right now. IU has to replace 10 of 11 starters from a team that went to the College Cup last season. Guys like Andrew Gutman and Justin Rennicks have made the most of their chances at IU and it’s landed them professional contracts.
He also signed an amateur contract with Indy Eleven and has gotten some first team minutes. But without an affiliation to an MLS club, Penn has the potential to be a Generation Adidas player in next year’s MLS draft. Having success at IU could go a long way in seeing that come to fruition.
“It motivates me a ton,” Penn said. “Before even I thought about Indiana, I knew I wanted to play professionally. So seeing people show well there and have endless opportunities, it really motivates me to keep working. If I show well, I know I’ll have those same opportunities.”
Coming in with high expectations brings a big challenge. But Penn is ready to meet that challenge. He wants this season to be the one that gets over the hump and earns a National Title for the first time since 2012.
“It’s exciting to know I can step in and potentially be a leader right away,” Penn said. “I think that’ll make us closer as a team because next year is going to be a little bit of an unknown. We don’t know who will step up but if we all do, then we’ll be a very exciting and a very good team.”