From fan to first team: RSL sign Julian Vazquez as club's 16th Homegrown

Julian Vazquez - Real Salt Lake - Homegrown Player

Real Salt Lake’s assembly line of homespun talent churned out its latest product on Saturday, as the club unveiled 17-year-old striker Julian Vazquez as their 16th Homegrown Player signing, and the ninth on their current roster.

A native of Nibley, Utah, Vazquez is the first – though surely not the last – HGP to have utilized the Zions Bank Real Academy, RSL’s sprawling, state-of-the-art training facility in Herriman, Utah, which debuted last year.

He’s also a true Homegrown in every sense of the word, as he explained to reporters at his introduction during Salt Lake’s home match vs. the Portland Timbers at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“It’s crazy to think that not so long ago I was just watching the games as a little kid, and now I’m going to be a part of the team. It’s just an amazing moment for me,” said Vazquez, a member of RSL’s academy for three years, a period spanning both its current location and its previous home in Casa Grande, Arizona.

“I’ve been working very hard for this moment and I always dreamt of this happening – all the hard work is showing up,” he added. “I always grew up watching the games with my family and so now, just being part of this team, it means a lot to me.”

A prolific scorer in academy play and in high-school action with Ridgeline High School in Millville, Utah before that, Vazquez said he’ll finish the current U.S. Soccer Development Academy season with RSL’s oldest youth side and begin to transition into a fully professional schedule starting with next year’s RSL preseason.

The plan is for him to cut his teeth with Real Monarchs SLC, the club’s USL side, before joining the MLS squad on a full-time basis.

“I’ll spend the first year with the Monarchs, that’ll lay down my foundation to make the jump to the first team,” he said.

*Kevin Nielsen contributed additional reporting to this piece.