Max and Sydney Zandi don’t even bother explaining it anymore.
"Yeah, we're related," Max said with a chuckle, recalling his stock response when people ask if the West Chester Henderson (Pa.) High School seniors are brother and sister.
Truth is, they aren’t brother and sister, but the cousins might as well be.
The Zandis live within walking distance of each other. They have attended school together every year, and since fifth grade, have been in many of the same classes. They started playing soccer at the same age and always spend time together, as if they were siblings. On Saturday, they'll get to share one last high school soccer experience — as participants in the High School Soccer All-American Games at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh, N.C.
"I think this is going to be an awesome experience. It's a huge honor for us and our families and our school," Sydney said. The Zandis are two of four West Chester Henderson players named to this year's boys and girls games.
The match will be live-streamed on TopDrawerSoccer.com Saturday, starting at 2 p.m. EST.
Siblings have competed in the High School Soccer All-America Games, although in different years but this is the first time cousins have played and in the same year, according to the event organizer.
Max Zandi, who is committed to Villanova, helped West Chester Henderson to a 23-2-1 record, a PIAA Class AAAA state semifinalist appearance and a SIMA FAB 50 No. 30 final ranking. Henderson entered the season with lofty expectations and delivered a strong showing that included ending Central Bucks West’s then state-best 32-match undefeated streak early in the season and winning the coveted PIAA District 1-AAAA title. Zandi was a four-year starter starter, three-year team captain and two-time ChesMont League MVP.
Sydney Zandi, a Virginia commit, played only a handful of high school matches before joining the U.S. Under-17 Women's National Team for the U17 World Cup in Jordan during September and October. Since Zandi played part of the high school season, the event organizer considered her, along with a few other youth nation team players, eligible for the event due to their career achievements in the high school game.
Sydney learned of her invitation to the girls All-America game first. It wasn’t until a few days later, after the family had set up a group message, that Sydney’s sister shared the news that Max was invited for the boys game.
For the Zandis, soccer is in the bloodstream.
Sydney's father, Karl, and Max's father, Peter, are brothers who played high school soccer together at Upper Merion (Pa.) High School. Karl played college soccer at West Chester, while Peter played at UPenn.
"Growing up, playing soccer, we were constantly pushing each other," Max said of Sydney. "We have an interesting bond."
As Sydney started making her way into the youth national team pool, she would train with Max’s Penn Fusion boys team to help her prepare for higher level competition.
"We she got to go to the World Cup in Jordan, I was so proud of her," Max said. "She's worked so hard, and sacrificed so much of her social life."
Saturday's All-America Game will mark the end of the Zandi era at West Chester Henderson, and for this first time in their lives Max and Sydney will be heading in different directions. But even that comes with a family-related twist. Max is headed to Villanova, where he will be college teammates with another cousin, Zach Zandi, who is Sydney’s older brother.