HANOVER, N.J. – Unlike his teammates who typically head home to relax after each training session, midfielder Tyler Adams leaves the New York Red Bulls facility each day and immediately heads off for two hours of classes and studying.
The 18-year-old Adams, one of American soccer's bright young stars, began college classes at Southern New Hampshire University just days after graduating high school in June. He already has completed two courses this summer and is currently enrolled in two more, a pace that has him set to graduate in three-and-a-half years.
Already a regular starter in MLS and a key component to the US Under-20 national team, Adams also happens to boast a 4.0 GPA in college. He also likes to cook, claiming he can make a legitimately good chicken parmesan.
Ask Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch about his young midfielder and he isn’t shy to rave about his talent. Asked to compare him to another player, Marsch likened Adams to Gennaro Gattuso, the former Italian international who often played deep in the midfield but had the athleticism and motor to play on the wings.
“One of his big strengths is his ability to run. Gattuso was always a guy that broke up a lot of plays but also a good footballer and a big winner. I think that will end up defining Tyler’s career as well,” Marsch said. “I think this is a kid that will win a lot of tournaments, a lot of championships. He already has one under his belt. It will be fun to watch him the coming years.”
So perhaps it isn’t terribly surprising that Adams, who missed preseason with the Red Bulls while qualifying for the U-20 World Cup, has been among the team’s biggest performers this year.
He started the year on the bench, but quickly displaced Sean Davis as Dax McCarty's replacement in the center of the midfield alongside Felipe. That move has worked well for Adams, as it opened minutes for him as a deep-lying midfielder before more recently serving as a wingback
“I was hoping that right away I’d be playing games…starting,” Adams told MLSSoccer.com this week following training. "I thought that I could really cement myself and prove to the coaching staff that after a good  with the USL team that I was ready for bigger and better challenges. Jesse talked with me before coming into the season and that there’d be changes.
"And obviously there is a huge change with Dax leaving – someone who taught me so much and is a well-respected player. A player with the national team consistently in there now but that opened up a huge void for me.”
Now this Saturday, Adams and his teammates take on McCarty and the Chicago Fire (4 pm ET | UniMas; MLS LIVE in Canada) in a match with playoff implications. When these two sides met earlier this year, Adams took a foul from Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, one of the most decorated midfielders in global soccer over the past decade. Adams hit the ground hard and as he got up, Schweinsteiger offered the next generation a hand.
Saying that “I’ve never really been intimidated” and calling himself a “fearless type of player,” Adams remembers the moment well. He declined Schweinsteiger’s gesture.
“I think that for me, on the field, if someone takes a cheap shot at me and offers me their hand, I’m not going to really respect that," said Adams. "You’re going to foul me like that or [execute] dirty plays like that, I don’t really care who it is or anything like that.
“Obviously I respect Schweinsteiger for everything he’s done and stuff like that. There’s no reason I wouldn’t respect him – he’s a World Cup champion and a world-class player. But a cheap shot is a cheap shot whether it is a USL game, college game, pick-up soccer or in MLS. So of course, [I'm] coming of age with those types of scenarios and dealing with certain things like that.”
Now a starter with the Red Bulls and with his success with the U-20 national team earlier this year, the next step for Adams is to get a call-up to the full national team. Bear in mind that in the months prior to the 2002 World Cup, US head coach Bruce Arena began to integrate rising young stars Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley into his lineup, with both players ending up starting and playing pivotal roles for a side that made it to the quarterfinals.
Perhaps a similar trajectory could be in store for Adams under Arena this cycle. In the eyes of Marsch, who was a former assistant on the national team, “it’s not as much if as when” that Adams will get a call-up.
If Adams does get selected some time in the near future, he would join a young contingent on the team that includes former US Soccer residency teammate and Borussia Dortmund regular Christian Pulisic.
“That’s absolutely the goal. I couldn’t imagine anything less than that. That’s really the next step," said Adams. "Obviously the U-20s are, and the Olympic team which is also going to be forming pretty soon, but playing with the senior national team is a dream of mine. Obviously, there’s some young players in there right now. The one that is really noted is Christian, a kid that I played with and lived with in residency so I know him well.
“I think there’s a really good next generation of young players that can compete at that level. We do it in MLS, playing day in and day out, which obviously I have to do here first in order to prove myself at the national team level and deserve that call-up. So, you know it’s just working every day here before I get that hopeful national team call.”