Tuesday marks MLS SuperDraft day, and while it's always fun to see who your team adds and to pore over their college bio page, you ultimately want your club moving in the direction of producing and signing more Homegrown Players through its academy. Real Salt Lake did just that Monday with the addition of 15-year-old midfielder Jude Wellings — who becomes the club's youngest-ever first-team signing.
Remember RSL Academy prospect Axel Kei made headlines back in October when making his USL Championship debut for Real Monarchs at the age of 13, but the striker, now 14, hasn't signed a professional contract yet.
Wellings, from Birmingham, Michigan, joined RSL's academy in the summer of 2020 and had a massive 2021 calendar year. He captained the club's U-15 team to glory at the 2021 MLS NEXT Cup, transitioned to the U-17 level and scored five goals with two assists in 12 appearances, was named MLS NEXT Best Player of the Tournament, made his professional debut for the Monarchs in the USLC in October and was selected to train with the USYNT U-17s in November.
Us: Who balled out during MLS NEXT Fest?
You (in unison): Jude WellingsThe U17 Real Salt Lake captain led his squad through an undefeated run during their GA Cup Qualifiers and bagged two goals in the process. pic.twitter.com/KdZ1JsIRN2
— MLS NEXT (@MLSNEXT) December 14, 2021
He's now been locked down in Salt Lake with a contract through the 2025 season and an option for 2026.
He balled out for @RSLAcademy, now he's taking his talents to the first team.— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) January 11, 2022
"In his time with our Academy, Jude has shown himself to be both an elite prospect on the pitch, as well as an incredibly mature young man off of it," RSL general manager Elliot Fall said. "He has established himself as one of the top prospects in the country at his age. We couldn't be more excited to have Jude and his family committed to beginning his professional career at RSL."
Wellings isn't the youngest MLS signing ever. The top five is comprised of 14 year olds.
Youngest MLS Signings Ever
#1. Freddy Adu (DC United) | 14 years, 168 days | signed 2004
#2. Emmanuel Ochoa (San Jose) | 14 years, 191 days | signed 2019
#3. Christian McFarlane (NYCFC) | 14 years, 234 days | signed 2021
#4. Gabriel Slonina (Chicago) | 14 years, 297 days | signed 2019
#5. Bento Estrela (NYRB) | 14 years, 364 days | signed 2021
But Wellings moves alongside some other big names who signed contracts at the age of 15 before going on to big things, like Joe Scally, Gianluca Busio, Cade Cowell and George Bello.
It's an exciting time for RSL following the sale of the club to David Blitzer (part owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Devils, Crystal Palace and FC Augsburg) and Ryan Smith (Utah Jazz owner) for close to $400 million. Albert Rusnak has departed and joined the Sounders, but you don't need all those goals and assists when you have Pablo Maestroni, David Ochoa and the power of human spirit.