The Legacy of Freddy Adu

Tyler Wenger

Capturing the Game



Image of Freddy Adu representing the United States Men’s National Team. Source: Wikipedia.

When the whole world watches but you are only 14 years old, it seems like a great opportunity to become a professional player. Being the son of immigrants from Ghana, Freddy Adu represents the hope for the next generation of soccer players in the early 2000s. With an offer of $500,000 and an endorsement deal from Nike, he represented the hope of the next generation of American soccer [Bell]. Freddy Adu is the youngest player ever to sign a contract in the history of the MLS and youngest player to sign a contract for any professional sport in the USA since 1887 []. Being deemed the next Pele early on and an initial contract lasting six seasons, it is hard to understand what went wrong for this soccer phenomenon.

Although his first season starts out with him getting 5 goals in 30 games, the hype seemed as though it would be turning into a reality. Being the same age as Pele when he had first signed his contract at age 15, it seemed as though one might expect Adu to have revolutionized the American team and lead it for the next twenty years.

Now, 16 years after his initial contract, Freddy Adu is but a past player. He is past his prime having played for thirteen different teams and never making a large impact. While playing for thirteen teams may initially sound like many different teams wanted this superstar over his career, it ensures that his tenure and impact on each individual club was minor. He is often loaned out to a different team and never has found his impact.

Having won very few individual or team honors including only 1 MLS cup, his importance in lifting up American soccer to the next level is one in which is nonexistent. Although Adu has been capped 17 times by the United States national team, it does not compare to the 157 caps that Landon Donovan achieved over roughly the same year period. Freddy Adu will forever go down in history as the youngest player to have a contract in MLS soccer but his role in changing the game only leaves questions as to whether 14 years old is too young or if a player needs to develop against players his own age. Freddy Adu has gone from house hold name to part of the record books where an entire generation of fans has been left with disappointment.


Bell, Jack. “SOCCER; Adu, 14, Signs An M.L.S. Deal For Six Years.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Nov. 2003,

Keidel, Phil. “Charting Where It All Went Wrong for ‘New Pele’ Freddy Adu.” Bleacher Report, Bleacher Report, 3 Oct. 2017,

“Freddy Adu.”, A&E Networks Television, 2 Apr. 2014,