Future Choices for Sporting KC Youth Players

Sporting Kansas City’s young players have a handful of choices to showcase their talent
by Katherine Rupp   |   Friday, February 14, 2014

John Hefti Photography - SKC, Sporting KC

Not only does Sporting Kansas City have international players and national team stars on the roster, but they are lucky enough to have a handful of young up-and-coming players who could one day make an impact in MLS and national team lineups.

One young player who fits into that category is defender Erik Palmer-Brown, who was added to the Sporting family in August of 2013.

Palmer-Brown, Sporting KC’s third homegrown player after goalkeeper Jon Kempin and defender Kevin Ellis, looks to have a meteoric rise in the soccer world in the coming years. Similar to homegrown players are the Generation adidas contracted players, in which both programs are designed to get the most out of the youth players. Some past GA players currently at Sporting Kansas City consist of Josh Gardner, Jacob Peterson, Chance Myers, Teal Bunbury, Ike Opara, Dom Dwyer and Mikey Lopez.

Although not yet in the same breath as his fellow Sporting KC teammates Matt Besler and Graham Zusi in becoming veteran US Men’s National Team players and Sporting KC starters, Palmer-Brown, 16, has been on such a steady incline in his formative soccer years that he is a regular face on the youth US national teams – including most recently the US U-18 Men's National Team – and is most certainly a name to watch for future international tournaments whether the Olympics or World Cup. His first international goal came last year in October in the 2013 Limoges Tournament when the US team played the Czech Republic. The KC native’s goal ended up being penned in the books as a header coming off a corner kick in the 57th minute.

An interesting light at the end of one tunnel for Palmer-Brown might just be headed in the direction of Italy. Serie A giants Juventus recently expressed interest in the defender although he has yet to play any professional minutes for Sporting KC. Although Palmer-Brown has, for now, turned down the offer – rumored to be at or around $1 million – from Juventus, and this occurrence is an aberration for young players right now, situations such as this could be the norm in future years.

Unlike Palmer-Brown who is seemingly on the fast track to playing in MLS, many other teenagers don’t have the same opportunities to be picked up by MLS teams and therefore, go a different route, which is more widely accepted. The second route is club soccer – be it through a local or MLS team ­– leading to college soccer. If the situation arises, the fork in the road of choosing between signing homegrown/Generation adidas/club contracts or forgoing the rigors of those contracts to hone their skills – albeit during a 5-month season every year – in college, is one that many young players are having to face. As more and more youth players desire to make the step to play in the US, or overseas someday, weighing the decision becomes bigger.

There is no rhyme or reason to players choosing the MLS development team route or the college route, and even though both have their pros and cons, it is a significant life decision. The college choice still is the more popular way, mainly because of the feasibility of the options that are on the other side, whether it means going on to play professional soccer or choosing to practice another profession.

So what’s the best way for teenagers and possible college-bound players to choose? There is no right or wrong way, but for now, it looks as if Palmer-Brown, with his possible special circumstance (i.e. Juventus), made the correct choice for him and his future playing career.

As it is, individual choices will become harder as the years come along with enticing offers – possibly from overseas – and the excitement of college, but for players who have a handful of options, they must weigh their future decisions with wisdom. Regardless of choosing to play overseas, attending and playing at college, or going from homegrown player directly to their MLS team, there are thousands of teenagers lucky to be in the soccer world these days.

NEXT UP: March 8, 2014 –Sporting Kansas City v. Seattle Sounders, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash., 3 p.m. EST, NBCSN.

Katherine RUPP

Drake University
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Unabashed Minnesotan by birth. Tried reliving the glory days of collegiate intramural soccer championships but an ACL tear dashed future hopes of adult recreational greatness. Covering a city’s team that’s too big for one state: SKC.