Although he could not lead his Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy team to a second consecutive U-16 national championship this month, Sebastian Saucedo got some serious consolation: a professional contract.
The 17-year-old Saucedo, a key part of the US Under-18 national team, signed with Real Salt Lake as a Homegrown player this week and was presented to the Rio Tinto Stadium crowd at halftime of the 3-1 win over the Montreal Impact.
Born in California but raised in Park City, Utah, Saucedo becomes the first Utahn to earn a professional contract after progressing through the RSL Academy. Salt Lake City-born Justin Braun is the only other Utahn to represent Real Salt Lake.
After first playing with the Real Salt Lake Academy in 2011, Saucedo scored 50 goals in two seasons of US Soccer Development Academy play for the RSL U-16s, scoring 19 as they won the 2012-13 national championship and netting 31 times this season while leading RSL back to the championship game, where they fell 2-0 to the LA Galaxy.
In addition to his exploits in USSDA play, Saucedo led Real Salt Lake to the championship game of the 2014 Generation adidas Cup (Major League Soccer's U-17 championship), earning the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player and the Golden Boot as its leading scorer despite a shootout loss to English club Stoke City in the final.
At the tournament, Saucedo scored five goals in five games, including a highlight-reel lob from 35 yards in the semifinal against FC Dallas (see the video above).
Now the eighth Homegrown player signed by Real Salt Lake, Saucedo has already appeared in three Reserve League games for RSL over the past two seasons.
Saucedo was one of three MLS players out of a possible six to earn conference Player of the Year honors from the USSDA this year, taking the Western Conference U-16 award.
The Chicago Fire's Collin Fernandez, who won the Central Conference U-16 award, is reportedly closing in on a Homegrown Player contract of his own, while the LA Galaxy's Adonis Amaya, who was named Western Conference U-18 Player of the Year, is listed on the preliminary roster at Division I collegiate powerhouse UC Santa Barbara.