Every MLS club's must-watch homegrown player in 2024
One of the most enjoyable storylines each MLS season? Seeing which homegrown players raise their profile.
Sam Adekugbe originally joined Vancouver Whitecaps FC in September 2011 as a member of the club’s Residency program. The defender from Calgary, Alberta was then signed to Vancouver’s MLS roster as a Homegrown player on August 28, 2013, before starting in his MLS debut in the season finale on October 27. He made his senior international debut for Canada on September 2015. As part of his development, Adekugbe has spent training stints with English Premier League club Liverpool FC and with Scottish Championship side Rangers FC in 2014. He also trained with Brighton & Hove Albion FC in 2015, and joined the English Football League Championship club on loan on July 2016 through June 2017. In July 2017, Adekugbe was loaned out to Swedish Allsvenskan club IFK Göteborg through the end of 2017. On January 8, 2018, Whitecaps FC transferred Adekugbe to Norwegian Eliteserien club Vålerenga Fotball.
In August 2023, Adekugbe re-joined Whitecaps FC via transfer from Turkish Süper Lig side Hatayspor after spending six years playing in Europe. Adekugbe agreed to a contract through 2026, with a club option for 2027.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
'23: After re-joining the club in August via transfer from Hatayspor, Adekugbe went on to start six of his 12 appearances across all competitions for the ‘Caps. The Canadian international recorded his first assist for the club on October 4 against St. Louis CITY SC, setting up fellow Canadian Richie Laryea. In addition, Adekugbe scored his first ‘Caps goal against Los Angeles FC in the first match of the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs Round One Best-of-3 Series. '16: Adekugbe made two regular season appearances for Whitecaps FC - subbing on to help preserve a clean sheet win over Houston Dynamo on March 26, and starting in the loss at New York City FC on April 30 - before being loaned out to Brighton & Hove Albion FC on July 15. '15: Adekugbe started seven of the ‘Caps first nine MLS matches before being sidelined with an injury midway through the year. He came back and finished the season with nine MLS appearances, highlighted by an MLS Team of the Week selection after his first start of the year in the 1-0 win at Chicago Fire on March 14. '14: Adekugbe made four regular season appearances at left back for the ‘Caps in 2014, including one start against Toronto FC in a 2-1 win on July 16. The young Canadian culminated the year by subbing in for an injured Steven Beitashour in the regular season finale, helping the ‘Caps keep a shutout in a 1-0 win over Colorado Rapids to clinch the club’s second-ever MLS playoff berth. '13: At 18 years old, Adekugbe was added to the club's MLS roster on August 28, 2013. The young defender made his MLS debut in Vancouver's season finale on October 27, 2013, in a 3-0 triumph over Colorado Rapids. Adekugbe started at left back and played all 90 minutes of the match.
'21-'23: Adekugbe arrives to Vancouver from Turkish side Hatayspor, where he started 53 of his 56 appearances and recorded two assists across all competitions after joining the club in 2021.
'23: Adekugbe spent the second half of the 2022/23 season on loan to Turkish giants Galatasaray. The Canadian international started all six of his appearances for the club and notched an assist en route to helping the side secure the Süper Lig Championship.
'18: Adekugbe played four seasons with Norwegian Eliteserien side Vålerenga Football. The defender made 87 starts and 95 appearances during his time in Oslo, while also tallying six assists.
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION
'16-'17: On July 15, 2016, Adekugbe joined English Football League Championship club Brighton & Hove Albion FC on loan. He made five first-team starts and appearances, across all competitions, including a goal in League Cup action. He also made five starts with the club's U-23 side in the Premier League 2.
'15: Adekugbe started in the ACC opener versus FC Edmonton on May 13 but had to leave the game with an injury after playing 17 minutes. '14: Adekugbe also started and played all 90 minutes in both ‘Caps matches in the ACC.
CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
'15: Adekugbe appeared in all four CCL matches, making three starts.
UNITED SOCCER LEAGUE
'16: Adekugbe started all of his four appearances for Whitecaps FC 2, recording an assist in the 2-2 draw against Real Monarchs SLC on May 29. '15: Adekugbe started two matches for Whitecaps FC 2, playing the full 90 minutes in each.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER RESERVE LEAGUE
'13: Adekugbe made six appearances in reserve league play in 2013, playing the full 90 minutes in every match he took part in. In the Blue and White’s 4-0 victory over Seattle Sounders FC Reserves on July 7, the left back scored a superb goal to put the game out of reach. 2012: At 17 years old, Adekugbe made his MLS Reserve League debut for Whitecaps FC reserves, as they drew 1-1 at home to Seattle Sounders FC reserves on March 26. The defender played the second half of the season opener at Thunderbird Stadium on the campus of the University of British Columbia after replacing Jordan Harvey at halftime.
UNITED STATES SOCCER DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY
'13-'14: Adekugbe made 18 appearances for Whitecaps FC U-18 Residency, including 17 starts, and scored one goal. 2012-13: Adekugbe started 32 of 35 regular season games for Whitecaps FC U-18 Residency, registering two goals. 2011-12: Adekugbe started 23 of 25 regular season games for Whitecaps FC U-16 Residency, scoring one goal on the season in a 5-0 win over California Development Academy on September 24, 2011. Late in the season, Adekugbe joined Whitecaps FC U-18 Residency for the 2011-12 Academy Finals Week in Houston, Texas.
Adekugbe made his senior international debut in the 1-1 draw in the second leg of the third round of FIFA World Cup qualifying versus Belize on September 8, 2015. The left back received his first-ever senior camp invite in September 2013. Three of his appearances for the national team came at the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar, starting the last group stage match against Morocco. Adekugbe has also played in FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Concacaf Nations League, Gold Cup, and international friendly matches for Canada. U-20: Adekugbe started three friendly matches for Canada during a camp in November 2014. The young defender captained Canada’s side in a 2-2 draw against England, and started in a 2-1 win over Russia, and a 1-0 win over the United States. U-18: Adekugbe was called up to a week-long training camp with the Canadian U-18 team in November 2012, and and then again in October 2013 for a camp in Guatemala.
Before moving to his current hometown of Calgary, Alberta, the defender played youth soccer in Manchester, England, with AFC Clayton (2000 to 2004) before immigrating to Canada with his family in 2004. From 2004 to 2009, Adekugbe played for Calgary Foothills Saints before spending two years with Calgary Foothills Rapids (2009 to 2011). During his time at Calgary Foothills, the defender won three Calgary Minor Soccer Association tier-one championship titles and two Alberta provincial indoor titles. He also represented his home province of Alberta at the U-13 and U-16 levels.
Born in London, England, and growing up in Manchester, England, Adekugbe immigrated to Canada at the age of nine. His parents are Dee and Ben Adekugbe. In his early years, Ben spent time with Charlton Athletic FC. Adekugbe’s younger brother Elijah was a member of Whitecaps FC Residency. He also has three sisters named Abigail, Debbie, and Ruth. He first attended Nicholas Varley Community School in Manchester, England (1999 to 2004) before attending Calgary's Midnapore School (2004 to 2006). He then attended Sir Winston Churchill High School (2009-10) and Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School (2010-11) in Calgary, Alberta.
Adekugbe’s first memories of playing soccer are in England in a Manchester United Youth Camp when he was four years old. He also attended Sir Charlton Academy which has produced top players including the likes of David Beckham. Adekugbe follows some soccer superstitions before games, such as placing his left boot on before his right and never placing his boots on top of a table. His favourite team is English Premier League giants Manchester City FC, while he is also a fan of former Manchester United and Welsh star Ryan Giggs and former Chelsea FC and England left fullback Ashley Cole. He would like to play at Wembley Stadium in London, England, and Manchester United's Old Trafford home one day. He likes eating linguini with Bolognese sauce, chicken, and garlic toast. When not playing soccer, Adekugbe enjoys reading soccer autobiographies and going to movies with his friends. He also plays other sports such as tennis and basketball. In his spare time, he also enjoys playing the piano and drums.