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At some point, nearly every soccer player in America — young and old alike — has dreamed of lacing their boots and running out onto the pitch with one of the world's top professional clubs.
For most, it's just a dream. For Washington Youth Soccer's Jason McGlothern, however, it's become a reality — and it only took him 15 years to get there.
In 2010, the Mount Rainier High School sophomore (now a junior), who grew up playing for Washington Youth Soccer clubs FC Greater Renton, Crossfire Premier and Eastside FC, was given the chance of a lifetime to live and train in Germany with 1.FC Nuremberg of the German Bundesliga, one of the top professional leagues on the planet.
"It was unbelievable," he says. "The training there was just incredible. The facility was brand new, the grass was amazing, and the soccer ... kids went after it. I've never seen kids go so hard into tackles, just giving it everything."
McGlothern was first discovered by local scouts while visiting his grandparents in Germany, where he was born before moving to the United States with his parents at the age of three. After two years of training off and on with the Italian Serie A club Atalanta B.C. — during which time he would fly back and forth to train for a week at a time — McGlothern was offered a two-year youth development contract by 1.FC Nuremberg in January of 2010, to train at its youth academy with the club's Under 17 squad.
Five months later, at the end of McGlothern's freshman year at Mount Rainier, the 15-year-old packed up life as he knew it and embarked on a trip of which many dream, but few have the opportunity to achieve.
"I definitely got a little homesick early on," he says. "All the players lived in the dorms together, kids of all ages in the academy program. I was the only one from overseas, and so when everybody would go home on a free weekend, I'd have nowhere to go. During the week, though, the focus was totally on soccer."
McGlothern says that the team would train daily after school, with morning practices added twice a week. Most notable, he says, of the differences between the way American teams train and those in Europe, is the focus on the individual instead of the team.
"[In the U.S.], they build teams to try and win a National Championship," he says. "In Germany, the focus is less on the team and winning than on the individual player, and in trying to make them become a professional soccer player."
After five months of intense training and schooling, McGlothern made the decision to return to the Northwest and finish out his sophomore year at home. Academics, and homesickness, each played a part in his decision.
As difficult of a decision as it was to walk away from a top European club, McGlothern was able to step right into another professional development program upon his return, joining the Seattle Sounders Academy.
"It's been incredible," he says of the Sounders' program. "Darren Sawatzky has been a big influence on me. Darren has taught me to be a professional – be a man, representing the Seattle Sounders and that badge on my chest."
McGlothern also credits his U11 coach, Pedro Millan, for helping to inspire him to reach for his goal in soccer, and to keep playing the "joga bonito."
He says that his experience in Germany, and the professionalism that he learned there and has brought back with him to the U.S., has inspired him to possibly one day return to Europe, should the opportunity arise.
"I'd love to play professional soccer after high school. When you go to college, you're really choosing to go more of academic lifestyle, but I'd like to play professional soccer, whether it works out with the Sounders or whether I end up going back to Europe. But I also know that academics are important since it is very hard to make it to the pros. Whatever happens is meant to be," he says.
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