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Freddy Adu’s Record As Youngest MLS Signing Broken By Real Salt Lake Phenom

On Monday, Real Salt Lake set a club record by signing its youngest-ever first-team player, 15-year-old Jude Wellings. That record didn’t even last the week. RSL announced on Friday it had signed 14-year-old forward Axel Kei, who broke Freddy Adu’s record for youngest MLS player ever signed to a first-team contract.

For 18 years, Adu owned the record for youngest MLS player, having joined D.C. United at the age of 14 years and 168 days. Kei has him beat at the age of 14 years and 15 days. His contract is for two years, at which time he’ll have just become old enough to legally drive.

“Over the last year Axel has proven to be one of the top attacking prospects in the country,” said Real Salt Lake general manager Elliot Fall. “His propensity in front of goal is well beyond his years, and coupled with his elite athleticism, he projects to become a goal-scoring force in our league in the years to come.”

Youngest MLS Player Axel Kei

  • Date of birth: Dec. 30, 2007
  • Age: 14 years, 15 days
  • Place of birth: Ivory Coast
  • Citizenship: United States
  • Position: Forward
  • Height: 6-4
  • Weight: 183 pounds

While it’s unfair to compare anyone to Adu, who himself was unfairly compared to players like Pelé, there’s good reason Axel Kei has set this record for youngest MLS player of all time. 

Last year, Kei led the RSL Academy’s U-15 squad to its first MLS Next Cup Championship with five goals in five games to claim the Golden Boot. He then scored six goals in six games with the RSL Academy’s U-17 team. 

Kei made his USL Championship debut for Real Monarchs in October at the age of 13, becoming the youngest-ever professional on an American sports team. At 6-4, 183 pounds, he’s not your typical 14-year-old. 

The teenager took a well-traveled path to MLS. Born in the Ivory Coast, he grew up in Brazil where his father played professionally before relocating to San Diego in 2017. He was a member of the LA Galaxy’s San Diego Youth Soccer Club for three years before joining the RSL Academy. Kei is eligible to represent the U.S. or Ivory Coast, and he was called into a youth training camp in 2019. 

Kei is the 14th homegrown player on the RSL roster and the fifth the club has signed this week. He could make his debut in Salt Lake’s season opener in Houston against the Dynamo on Feb. 27, at which point he’ll be an ancient 14 years and 59 days, still more than 100 days younger than Freddy Adu when he first joined D.C. United.

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