Caden Clark, from Minnesota to Red Bulls via Arizona

It was a transaction only possible in MLS.

On Saturday, the New York Red Bulls promoted 17-year-old Caden Clark  from their second team in the USL Championship, signing him to an MLS contract.

Hours later, Clark made his MLS debut, scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 win at Atlanta United with a volley after a failed corner kick.

“We know what a special talent he is and we've seen it throughout the USL," said interim coach Bradley Carnell. "And we know he has certain qualities and it makes it interesting with our style of play."



Earlier in the year, New York Red Bulls II signed Clark to a pro contract after he left the Barca Residency Academy in Arizona, where he spent parts of three seasons. Before that, he played two seasons in the Development Academy for the Minnesota Thunder Academy.

But to sign him, the Red Bulls had to send $75,000 in General Allocation Money to Minnesota United.

Confused?

Clark never had anything to do with Minnesota United -- it only joined MLS in 2017 -- but because MLS teams hold territorial rights to local players, the only MLS team he could sign with was Minnesota United unless the Loons could be convinced to part with his parts.

Clark was 14 when he left his home in Medina, Minnesota, to enter the Barcelona academy. which has also produced Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), Bryce Duke (LAFC) and Matthew Hoppe (Schalke 04). The Barca academy director was Sean McCafferty, who is now the Red Bulls' academy director.

"Caden is a promising young player, and everyone at the club is excited about his growth and the qualities he’s shown during his first professional season," said Red Bulls head of sport Kevin Thelwell. "He’s earned an opportunity to move up to the first team, and we look forward to his continued growth and development as a player and person."

Like many MLS second teams, NYRB II relied heavily on young players in 2020. Clark made 12 appearances in the USL Championship, recording three goals and a team-high five assists.

The top two goal-scorers were a pair of 19-year-olds Omar Sowe and Jake LaCava. Neither played in the Red Bulls' academy, either.

Sowe, who was born in Gambia, played high school soccer at Harrison High School. LaCava, who hails from Connecticut, spent a year at the Barca Residency Academy with Clark, then moved to the LA Galaxy academy for one year.

The most promising player in the Red Bulls' academy system is 16-year-old Dantouma Toure, who scored three goals and added three assists in 12 USL Championship games.

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