A year after a similar move fell through, D.C. United on Thursday confirmed that one of the club's favorite sons, 21-year-old Bobby Convey, will move to Reading Football Club of the English first division.
The deal is subject to the granting of a work permit from the British Home Office - which scuttled Convey's transfer to Tottenham Hotspur FC of the Premier League last year. But due to his more regular contributions to the U.S. men's national team - which he has appeared for in seven of the squad's nine games in 2004 - Convey is expected to have less difficulty acquiring the necessary paperwork this time.
Despite his young age, Convey is one of United's longest-serving members, having joined the club as a 16-year-old when he was selected in the first round of the 2000 MLS SuperDraft. At the time he was the youngest player ever drafted by an MLS club, and he also held the record for youngest player ever to score in a league game when he hit the back of the net for the Black-and-Red on April 7, 2001. United's teenage sensation Freddy Adu now holds both records.
"Major League Soccer and D.C. United have given me a home these last few years to develop my game and become the professional I am today, and for that I'm grateful," said Convey. "I'm truly excited to join Reading FC and have the opportunity to show that another American born and bred professionally in MLS is world-class. My dream of going to England has come true and I'm sure that it will be a great experience."
Coaches and officials at Reading expect Convey to immediately challenge for a spot in the team's first 11. It is anticipated that he could make his Reading debut in an August 7 friendly against Premier League side Manchester City. That meeting could pit Convey against his U.S. national team compatriot Claudio Reyna.
"We expect to see Bobby become one of Europe's strongest left-side players and a major force behind Reading's drive towards promotion to the Premier League," said Nick Hammond, Reading's director of football. "His first touch, pace, field leadership - everything we see in Bobby - says he'll have a spectacular career as a Royal. The club is delighted to have landed a player who has a record of success at the highest levels of play at such an early age - and still shows so much potential for the future."
Convey's departure for England is only one of a number of high-level transfers of U.S. players to the top leagues in Europe. The Chicago Fire's Carlos Bocanegra and the Columbus Crew's Brian McBride both joined Premier League side Fulham in 2003, and Convey's close friend DaMarcus Beasley (Chicago Fire) is expected to be on his way to the Dutch Eredivisie's PSV Eindhoven.
The Philadelphia native's wealth of experience at the club, youth national and full national levels have made Convey one of the top young players in U.S. soccer. He captained the U.S. U-23 team in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament, held in Guadalajara, Mexico in February. On October 25, 2000, Convey became the third-youngest player in national team history to earn a full cap when he made his U.S. debut in a match against Mexico. He has made 26 appearances for the full U.S. national team.
"We are very excited that a top-class international player such as Bobby has agreed to join us," said Reading chairman John Madejski. "I am sure his signing will generate a great deal of excitement among our supporters as we approach the new season."
Convey appeared in 89 games (80 as a starter) for United, registering 32 points on eight goals and 16 assists. He was named an MLS All-Star in 2001 and 2004. He was also honored as the 2002 Chevy Young Male Athlete of the Year.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com.