After finishing his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin with finals last week, Sam Brotherton has another big test coming up – on the soccer field.
The 19-year-old defender was named to the New Zealand national team for the Oceania Nations Cup, which is May 28 to June 11 in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
"Sam's involvement with the New Zealand full national team speaks highly of his continued development," Badgers coach John Trask said in a news release. "We are optimistic that a great OFC Nations Cup will elevate his game. Sam will return to Wisconsin for his sophomore year more prepared than ever to help lead our defense, which has shown great improvement over the past few months."
Brotherton and his teammates reported to training camp Saturday in Brisbane, Australia, to prepare for the tournament, which will determine Oceania's representative in next year's FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia and will double as the second round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
New Zealand will play Fiji on May 28, Vanuatu on May 31 and the Solomon Islands on June 4 in Group B at the Nations Cup. The top two teams in each group advance to the semifinals and to the third round of World Cup qualifying, while the third-place team in each group also moves on to the next round of qualifying.
Brotherton earned his first cap last November, playing all 90 minutes at center back in a 1-0 victory over Oman in a friendly, and was a regular for the Junior All Whites at last summer's FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand.
He started all 16 games in which he played for UW in 2015 – Brotherton missed two of the Badgers' non-conference matches to train with the full national team – and was named to the Big Ten Conference All-Freshman team.
New Zealand will play three friendlies during their camp in Brisbane in preparation for the Nations Cup, facing Queensland National Premier League sides Western Pride FC on Wednesday, Redlands United on Sunday and Brisbane City on May 24.