Marcus Owen is preordained to follow in his parent’s footsteps by going on to a prestigious high school, ivy league university and then earning a Ph.D. At any moment, Margaret and Harold Owen — the professors — may spring a pop quiz on Marcus. He may have to ask for his morning cereal in Latin or recite the Fibonacci sequence to earn dessert.
Marcus is diminutive in size, looking more like nine than eleven, which is why his parents are steadfast in their conviction to keep him out of sports and out of harm’s way, until he turns the tables on them by debating his desire to play soccer. Marcus wins the debate and is given their blessing with one caveat — if his grades fall, they pull the plug.
Encouraged by his best friend, Bobby, Marcus tries out for The Academy, an upper crust soccer team whose philosophy is to win at all cost. But it’s a disaster, especially for Marcus who is humiliated for his size. Undaunted, the boys join the Tornadoes — an unconventional team with an unconventional coach—where Marcus dedicates his efforts to learning the game, being the best and beating the Academy, for all the little guys who may never get the chance to play because of their size.
Marcus and Bobby quickly make friends with their new teammates, including Missy, the pint-sized back up goalie who makes up for her size with loads of confidence, and Chester “Stink Bomb” Jones, a massive boy who looks more like fifteen than eleven.
The Tornadoes earn a spot in the championship and Marcus’ goal is within reach, until his quest is derailed by a report card blemished by a “C”. Fearing his parents will pull the plug before the big game, Marcus hides the report card, then must face the consequences when his parents find it and put him on restriction.
Life gets worse for Marcus when he his beaten up by Connor Anderson, captain bully of The Academy, who fears that Marcus will show him up in the big game. Not wanting to give Connor the satisfaction of thinking that he chickened out, Marcus vows to find a way to play.
On restriction and alone at home with his thoughts, Marcus ponders a saying that Tornadoes’ coach, Jamie Gutierrez shared with him: Everyone has skeletons in the closet and ghosts in the attic. Taking this literally, Marcus is drawn to a forbidden place — the attic — where he stumbles across a trunk that holds a powerful secret that just might get him back in the game.