KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Cameron Porter turned pro in his chosen field even before leaving Princeton. Some time after that, he started getting paid for playing soccer, too.
Sporting Kansas City’s young forward majored in computer science at the Ivy League school and launched his first startup as a junior – and it’s still thriving, though he has stepped away from day-to-day operations. Now, Porter wears two hats with MLS – as a player and also working as a software engineer on the development side for MLS Digital.
Porter loves doing double duty, though.
“Doing software engineering on the side makes me enjoy playing soccer even more,” the third-year pro says. “No matter whether it’s a crappy hot day, or anything – because you really appreciate just what an amazing job it is, to be able to play every day.”
If it weren’t for soccer, though, Porter – who was drafted by the Montreal Impact in the third round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft and came to Sporting last July in a trade for Amadou Dia – might have taken a different academic route entirely.
“I went into college, thought I’d be an [economics] major,” he says. “The computer science class at Princeton was notoriously hard, and a few of the guys on the soccer team were like, ‘You know what? Let’s see if we can do this.’
“And so we took the class, loved it. Took another one, we still loved it and we ended up taking even more computer science classes than any of our majors. One thing led to another and we were computer science majors, me and three friends of mine from the team.”
The two aspects of his life have complemented each other well, Porter says.
“I think working on a software engineering team, it’s all about communication,’ he says, “and I think being on a professional team, you learn that communication is one of the most important things that makes a team function well – being aware of your strengths, your weaknesses, and understanding how to delegate responsibilities.
"And I think that’s something this team does very well, and hopefully I can bring that kind of mentality and culture.”
The funny thing, Porter says, is that he doesn’t have to do much to look the part for either job.
“When I have my glasses on, people are surprised that I’m a footballer,” he says. “When I’m here, people are surprised that I’m a software engineer. I think once people get to know me, they’re not surprised at all.”
So … how did he wind up doing both? That story requires backing up a little bit.
Porter made a quick contribution to the Impact out of college, scoring against Pachuca in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals to put Montreal into the semis ahead of an eventual runner-up finish. But shortly after that, he tore his ACL in an early regular-season game and missed the rest of the 2015 campaign.
The midseason 2016 trade brought him to Children’s Mercy Park, where he scored in the group stage of the 2016-17 CCL and has made one appearance off the bench this year. In between last season and this campaign, Porter started looking for something new to do with his major.
“You have a lot of free time with this job [as a professional soccer player],” Porter says. “We train in the mornings, and we train hard, but a lot of it is down time back at your place. And so I was looking for something to do on the side, a little bit more productive to keep my mind active.
"So over the offseason I was looking into different opportunities, different ideas of things I could do, and one of my mentors recommended that, “Hey, I’m sure MLS has a pretty advanced software engineering team. They have Android iOS apps. They have Apple TV applications, they have TV live streaming.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, I really didn’t think about that.' So I shot out a few emails, ended up meeting with the team out in New York. The conversations went well and we kind of worked things out over the course of the year to get things going.”
Porter puts in about five hours a day on the development gig – “I still get to bed at 10” – and even takes his work with him on road trips.
“Honestly, it’s like I usually don’t need an Internet connection, so I can just do it on the plane,” he says. “I just pull out my laptop. If you ever see me traveling, I’ve got the laptop up and I might be working on something.”
Teammate Daniel Salloi, at the next locker, cuts in: “Like two or three laptops.”
“Yeah, sometimes I travel with multiple laptops,” Porter says. “But it’s the kind of thing where you have the ability to kind of work when you’re free, which is nice – which is why software engineering turned out to be the perfect major for the career path I’ve chosen.”
Porter’s teammates give him some good-natured grief – “He’s a nerd,” center back Ike Opara says, “but he’s kind of a cool nerd” – but Porter also has their admiration.
“He’s a busy-minded, uber-intelligent person who always needs to keep his mind going,” goalkeeper Tim Melia says. “He’s one of those guys you try to keep after. He’s a really good soccer player. He’s very smart. He’s got a really bright future.
“I think what’s going to be really important about Cam is that as he works further with the league, they’re going to be able to use someone like that – someone who has his academic ability, in terms of knowing how to code, how to write programs and software, but he’s also a professional athlete so he knows the game on a first-hand basis.”