Savior of American Soccer

Daniel Barone

The next Pelé is here, and they said he would come one day. Fourteen-year-old Freddie Adu is the youngest athlete in an American sport in over a century, and his impact on Major League Soccer is unprecedented. His first goal this past weekend came in just his third game, and is most likely a foreshadowing of many more to come.

Sports fans may be treated to an occurrence that may only happen once in a lifetime – that is, a single player changing the entire face of a sport.

After being the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, Adu signed a $500,000 contract with DC United, in addition to his $1 million deal with Nike several months ago. This is not just hype; this is bigger than LeBron, and even bigger than what Tiger was able to do for golf.

For the first time, I saw a Metrostars game with both the lower level and the mezzanine near full capacity. Other than two playoff games and the team’s inaugural game, the attendance was the highest ever. They all hoped to see exactly what I saw that day – a potential legend netting his first professional goal. What followed the goal was a cool jog back to his side of the field, and the loudest cheers of the day with “Fred-die, Fred-die” resounding from the stands of the opposing team.

Although Adu’s impact on the field has been limited because of his role as a substitute through the first three games, and because of the virtual target on his back, his impact on the game itself has already been astounding. Attendance across the country has grown, especially when Adu is in town. The most significant factor, however, is getting the average sports fan to come watch a soccer game. Before Adu, this was unheard of, but now it is promising.

At just 5-foot-8-inches and 140 pounds, Adu has been pushed off of the ball by bigger defenders, and has not been able to create as well as he would like in the open field. His touch on the ball, however, is one of the best out there.

He is still getting used to playing with his new teammates as well. Adu is expected to move into a starting role very soon, and will probably have the opportunity to make his presence felt even more.

At 14, he is changing the face of soccer. At 14, I was worrying about who to ask to my eighth grade dance.

He scored his first goal in the pros before most kids get a chance to try out for their high school varsity team, because they aren’t in high school yet!

Adu’s four-year contract will be the single most beneficial thing for an American soccer league in years.

This is exactly what soccer needs to become a large market sport, to get contracts for its players that are better than custodians and to gain the popularity in the United States that it has throughout the rest of the world.