Striker Axel Kei, a 14-year-old American born in the Ivory Coast, has become the youngest player to sign a sports contract for an American team by signing with Real Salt Lake of North American MLS soccer.
The Major League Soccer team announced Friday that it had signed Kei, from its youth academy, to a two-year MLS contract.
At just 14 years and 15 days, Kei is 153 days younger than Freddy Adu, the Ghanaian-born striker who had been the youngest to sign a professional contract in the United States in January 2004, when he joined DC United from the MLS.
“Over the past year, Axel has proven to be one of the top attacking prospects in the country,” said Elliot Fall, general manager of Real Salt Lake.
“His propensity in front of goal is well beyond his years and, coupled with his elite athleticism, he projects to become a goalscoring force in our league for years to come,” added Fall.
Kei is Ivorian by birth and grew up in Brazil, where his father played soccer professionally, and in 2017 he moved with his family to San Diego, California at the age of nine.
The young player made his debut last October with the Real Monarchs, a Real Salt Lake development team, at age 13, to become the youngest professional player in US history.
After a 14-14-6 record last season, Real Salt Lake advanced to the MLS Western Conference playoff finals, where they fell to the Portland Timbers, who in turn lost in the grand final to the New York City F.C.
The Salt Lake team will open its 2022 season in Houston on February 27.