Most 14-year-olds playing soccer in the U.S. are just hoping they’re good enough to make their high school team. Scoring a few goals would be great, and winning a state championship would be icing on the cake.
But Francis Jacobs, apparently, is not like most 14-year-olds.
On Monday, the Laguna Beach, California native inked a professional multi-year contract with his hometown club, the USL Championship’s Orange County SC.
According to the club, he is the youngest male player to sign a professional soccer contract in the U.S. at 14 years, four months and 29 days old. He’s about two months younger than former phenom Freddy Adu was when he signed a deal with D.C. United of MLS in 2003.
Jacobs has been training with Orange County since May and will join the club as a midfielder. The 5-foot-11 youngster will be available for selection with Orange County faces off against Las Vegas Lights FC on Saturday.
“I am very excited for Francis, who is a young and gifted local talent, to join our team,” OCSC coach Braeden Cloutier said in a statement. “I’ve been really impressed with his poise and ability on the ball that he’s shown us these past few months. This is a great opportunity for Francis, and also an exciting challenge for the entire Orange County SC technical staff to do everything possible to help him reach his fullest potential.”
Jacobs has featured for the U.S. youth national team at the U-14 level and participated in the 2018 U.S. junior youth camp.
This isn’t the first time Orange County has signed players not yet old enough to get a driver’s license. In March 2018, the club signed Aaron Cervantes to a pro deal at just the age of 15. A goalkeeper, he has manned the pipes for OCSC nine times this season, notching a pair of clean sheets. He has also played with the U.S. U-17 youth national team.
Before signing this deal, Jacobs had been playing for a youth club – the Irvine Strikers – and also had training stints with FC Koln and Bayer Leverkusen in Germany.
“Francis is a special Orange County talent and has shown a maturity on the field way beyond his years,” OCSC’s 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.”
Orange County SC is in 14th place in the Western Conference this season with a -1 goal differential. The club is 1-2-2 in its last five matches.
Whenever Jacobs makes his pro debut, he will wear the No. 21 kit.
“First and foremost, I’m looking to improve in every part of my game, and playing every day with experienced professionals will provide me with that environment,” Jacobs told SB Nation’s Angels on Parade. “I don’t think a youth player my age can experience that in any other sport, but most of all I’m also looking to have fun will developing as a pro player.”