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Real Salt Lake signs 14-year-old forward Axel Kei to homegrown contract


HERRIMAN, Utah — Real Salt Lake has signed 14-year-old forward Axel Kei to a homegrown contract, making him the youngest player to ever sign with a Major League Soccer team.

At 14 years 15 days, Kei breaks the 18-year-old record set by Freddy Adu by 153 days. Kei joins RSL on a two-year contract.

While just 14, Kei stands six foot four and weights 183 pounds.

“Over the last year Axel has proven to be one of the top attacking prospects in the country. 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,” Real Salt Lake GM Elliot Fall said in a statement.

Born in the Ivory Coast, Kei was raised in Brazil where his father played professionally before his family relocated to San Diego in 2017. Prior to joining the RSL Academy, Kei spent three years playing for the L.A. Galaxy’s San Diego Youth Soccer Club.

Kei came on as a substitute for the Real Monarchs, Real Salt Lake's reserve team, on Oct. 8, 2021, when he was 13 years eight months nine days.

In comparison, Alphonso Davies was 15 years three months seven days when he signed with Whitecaps FC 2 in February 2016. Davies scored two months later against the Los Angeles Galaxy II, becoming the youngest player to get a goal in USL history.

Davies was 15 years eight months 13 days when he signed a homegrown player contact with the Whitecaps first team in July 2016, becoming the third-youngest player to sign an MLS contract. Now 21, Davies is with Bayern Munich.

Kei helped lead RSL Academy’s under-15 team to the first-ever MLS Next Cup Championship last summer, scoring five goals in five games. Kei was awarded the Golden Boot for the most goals scored at the U15 level during the tournament.

Kei went on to play for RSL's youth teams, scoring six goals in six games for the under-17 squad.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2022.

The Canadian Press