A 10-year-old American is preparing to live out what was once an unthinkable dream.
Ben Lederman, a Southern Californian, is packing up all his belongings and moving to Barcelona, Spain, where he is going to be spending the next two years as a member of the FC Barcelona youth academy, considered by many the greatest in the world.
He joins on a two-year contract and his performance will be evaluated in 2013 to determine his future at the club. His parents are moving to Barcelona in order to be with their son.
Lederman was in Spain to train with the academy in April while being courted by the club.
La Masia, Barcelona's academy, has produced some of the greatest players in the modern game including current Barcelona stars Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Pedro Rodriguez, Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol, and Bojan Krkic. Among the stars no longer with Barca are Thiago Motta, Cesc Fabregas, Mikel Arteta, Giovanni dos Santos and Fernando Navarro. First-team manager Josep Guardiola is an alumni of La Masia as well.
Lederman, a lifelong Barcelona fan, joins this elite program with the possibility of making the jump to the senior team within the next seven to 10 years. This, at the moment, seems like a possibility.
The youngster's style of play has been compared to Iniesta, who netted the tournament-winning goal in the 2010 FIFA World Cup and has been a staple in the Barcelona midfield for several years.
Obviously, at only 10 years old, we can not predict what will become of Lederman as a player. His future with the club will be assessed after two years, at which time he will either be offered an extension to remain at the academy or be released.
What is known is that this is a big moment for American soccer. An American-born, American-trained football is wanted by the greatest club and greatest academy in the world. It is a signing that shows that Americans can be on par with the rest of the world. There are millions of youth soccer players. Three hundred play for Barcelona's youth teams. Lederman is now part of that small percentage.
Just imagine it. First to Barcelona fans: would you ever expect an American to play for your club? I do not count Giuseppe Rossi, who plays for Italy but is from New Jersey. Lederman is the first American in La Masia. To US fans: imagine the US roster at the 2022 World Cup with a player who is a regular at Barcelona!
This is a triumphant moment for US Soccer and the steps that have been taken to develop young players in the United States.