Soccer Prodigy Signs with Pro Team at Age 15

PHOTO Youngest professional soccer player, Diego FagundezPlayABCNews
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Diego Fagundez, 15, has had one thing on his mind since he was a child: going pro.

"When I was 7 I decided I didn't want to go to college and told my parents all I wanted to do was be a professional soccer player," Fagundez told ABC News. "My teachers said, 'Diego you can't do this. You need your education.' There was something in me that knew it would happen, I just never liked school."

Fagundez signed with Major League Soccer's New England Revolution last November, joining the team's youth development program, Revolution Academy.

"I think a lot of people were surprised we signed a 15-year-old to a professional contract," Michael Burns, Revolution vice president of player personnel told the Boston Globe. Fagundez "had no desire to go to college, and chances are he would have gone outside this country to try to sign a professional contract. Since we have this program, and we feel he's talented enough, that's the reason we came to the conclusion to offer him a contract."

When Fagundez turns 16 in week, it will be the beginning of a year that will likely see him rise from the academy to the first team, a change that could force him to give up traditional high school. Fagundez plans to finish his freshman year of high school and then take night classes to accommodate the busy professional soccer schedule.

The Revolution practice during the day and insist that he continue to make progress towards his high school diploma while he plays for them.

"I'm going to like going to night school because it won't interfere with soccer," said Fagundez. "If it was my choice I wouldn't stay in school. Soccer is everything. If I didn't have soccer I think I would be a nobody and wouldn't know what to do."

Soccer is in Fagundez's blood. His father, Washington, was a professional goalie in Uruguay. It is the country of Fagundez's birth and the culture in which his love of soccer was cultivated. Fagundez's father and his mother, Alicia, moved the family to Leominster, Massachusetts when he was little. Fagundez says his parents have always supported his aspirations and plans, but like the team for which he will now play, they insist he complete high school.

"The pressure he faces will be enormous," said sports psychologist William Wiener. "Social development is often undermined or stunted in a certain way when children are thrust into an adult atmosphere."

"I'm not concerned right now with the transition. I am living my life now as a kid and I'll grow up when I have to," said Fagundez. "I still want to do stuff that kids do and not adults, but other times I want to do things that adults do and not kids."

Wiener says that to ease the transition, both the organization and Fagundez's parents need to be sensitive to the teenager's needs and try their best to create a normal world for him. Except for a great talent for soccer, Wiener says, Fagundez and his future teammates, some who will be twice his age, have very little in common.

"I've always played with older people, I was never scared of them," Fagundez told ABC News. "The only thing I can do is play how I usually do and play smart. I'm not nervous or scared or anything I'm just going to play soccer -- that's what I like to do."

It is a challenge soccer sensation Freddy Adu faced when he entered the league in 2004 at the age of 14. The number-one draft picked earned a $1 million salary and numerous sponsorships, but never was able to live up to the hype.

For Fagundez expectations are not nearly as high. He is expected to earn closer to the $42,000 league minimum and will likely be a practice player who could play in the reserve division.

"The world is littered with kids who have been child prodigies,'' Revolution Academy director Bryan Scales told the Boston Globe. "And then, all of a sudden, at some point they fizzle out. . . . I think Diego is different. He's a playmaker, he's got that passion, he's got an imagination, the creativity, and soccer brain playmaking players need to have.''

Fagundez says he wants to start in the MLS and see how far it can take him. For now he is just a 15-year-old local success story trying to make sure nothing gets in the way of his dream.

"When I go out in my town even people who I don't know tell me congratulations," said Fagundez. "I have to be more careful about things I do, I'm more careful than ever before."