LOS ANGELES, CA – Aaron Cervantes looks like he belongs among the pros. With a natural ability to lead, you would never know that this professional keeper is only 16-years-old and just signed a contract with Orange County Soccer Club.
Cervantes is a local product from Chino Hills. He says it wasn’t an easy decision to sign the professional contract because it meant forfeiting his college eligibility.
However, Cervantes’ decision shows how much soccer has grown in the United States. Of the four major sports, soccer has been the only one where young superstars go to college for four years.
The path to the pros hasn’t been as paved as Major League Baseball or the National Basketball Association. It also shows that gifted young athletes are starting to choose soccer, over those other sports.
“I coached in the academy level, I’ve coached youth soccer and now all the way up to the professional ranks and there’s a tremendous amount of talent out here. It’s just now finding the talent, nurturing the talent and getting them into the proper environment for them to grow,” said Head Coach Braeden Cloutier.
Orange County is home to some of the ripest soccer talent in the country. That is why OCSC is bringing the model of premiere international organizations to Irvine. They are signing kids like Cervantes to contracts and fostering an environment where that talent can develop.
“I think there’s over 150,000 registered players alone in Orange County. Now you actually have a home team, a professional team that you can root for, that you can come to the stadium,” said the club’s General Manager Oliver Wyss.
The club is a bigger draw than most people know with 3,000 attendees each game. It is the equivalent of the minor leagues of Major League Soccer and is becoming a big ticket with homegrown talent.
“If I was a kid eight, nine and coming to these games I’d be just out of my mind excited,” says Cervantes. Those kids are now hoping to be just like him.