Freddy Adu no longer holds the distinction, or pressure, of being the youngest signing in American soccer history.
That’s because on Monday, USL side Orange County SC signed 14-year-old Francis Jacobs to a professional contract. Jacobs, according to a press release from the club, had interest “from multiple European clubs,” but turned down a move abroad to stay close to home in Southern California. Per USL, Jacobs is eligible to play matches through the rest of the season. It’s unclear whether this type of contract allows Jacobs to keep his NCAA eligibility, should he potentially need to develop in college down the road.
“Francis is a special Orange County talent and has shown a maturity on the field way beyond his years,” Orange County SC general manager Oliver Wyss said in a statement. “He is the perfect model of player to develop in our pathway to professional program that we have established here in Orange County. The entire organization is committed to providing him with guidance, training and support as he begins the first step in what we believe will be a long professional soccer career. Our training environment will allow him to learn every day from our experienced technical staff and play alongside top pro players, some of which have played on the highest international level in Mexico and Europe. Francis has a bright future ahead and we are proud to have him and his family as part of Orange County SC.”
Jacobs, though still young, has been called up by the U.S. Soccer to take part in training camps with the U.S. Under-14 Boys National Team. He’s been described as a midfielder, but of course, at that age, he can end up playing anywhere.
Hopefully for Jacobs, this isn’t too much too soon. As Freddy Adu has learned over the course of his career, he bought into his own hype and didn’t work hard enough in training, or work hard enough for his teammates. He was capable of a moment of brilliance, but too often it was nowhere to be found.
For Jacobs however, this could be a chance to take his game to a new level. Playing with and against professionals each week calls for a player’s best, and hopefully over time, as he matures into an adult, he can rise to the challenge.
This isn’t a totally unprecedented move for the USL club. One of Orange County SC’s goalkeepers, 17-year-old Aaron Cervantes, signed ahead of last season and now has become the No. 1 for the team in July. He’s started each of his team’s last five games, helping keep two clean sheets.