When 18-year-old forward Jamar Beasley returned to Fort Wayne, Ind., from a trip to Orlando with the under-20 national team in February to train with MLS teams, he had some great news for his father, Henry. "Dad, I scored on Campos!" he said, referring to the Chicago Fire's Jorge Campos, one of the top goalkeepers in the world. With his performance in Florida, Jamar drew the attention of the league's deputy commissioner, Sunil Gulati, who called the Beasleys a week later and offered Jamar an MLS contract.
By accepting, he became the youngest player ever to sign with Project-40, an MLS program in which prospects skip college to develop their skills in a professional soccer environment. But unlike top youngsters in other countries (chart, light), the 5'10", 160-pound Beasley won't be rolling in dough. "I'm not concerned about the salary," he says. "If I just worry about soccer, the rest will fall into place."
At South Side High, Jamar set a state record with 107 career goals. He also averaged 12 points and five assists as a senior point guard, attracting interest from basketball programs like Wake Forest and Valparaiso. Though he graduates in June, Beasley won't join the team to which he has been assigned, the New England Revolution, full time until he has finished training with the U.S. U-20 team in August.
Breathless MLS coaches have already anointed Beasley the avatar of 21st century U.S. soccer. "He's got the technical ability of a Brazilian player, the speed of an American sprinter and the mental speed and toughness of a Western European player," says Revolution coach Thomas Rongen. "Ten years from now there will be a specific style of play associated with the U.S. national team, and he epitomizes that style."
"He's very improvisational in a natural way," says Tim Hankinson, the Project-40 coach. "You don't develop that through training, and that's why people are so excited about him."
U.S. World Cup team
Fashionably Late Arrivals
With only two months left before the U.S.'s World Cup opener against Germany in Paris, coach Steve Sampson is still adding to the number of candidates for his 22-man roster. "The only reason I've increased the field is that I feel there are players that can help us," Sampson says. "Certainly a few players have helped themselves tremendously in the last couple of months."
In fact, two players who didn't participate in World Cup qualifying not only might make the national team but also may start in France: Chad Deering, a former Indiana midfielder who now plays for VfL Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga, and defender David R�gis, a Frenchman who has applied for American citizenship.
After repeatedly promising Deering, 27, an opportunity to suit up for the U.S., Sampson finally called him in for a friendly against Paraguay on March 14, and Deering scored on a header in the 2-2 draw. "I've always said that Chad deserves to be on the team," says Claudio Reyna, America's playmaking midfielder and Deering's Wolfsburg teammate. "All he wanted was a chance, and I think he's off the bubble now."