Record transfer: Real Salt Lake lands teen standout Diego Luna

The 18-year-old Northern Californian Diego Luna, among the most highly rated attacking players in the USA's U-20 national team pool, has signed with Real Salt Lake through the 2024 MLS season, with club options for the 2025 and 2026 seasons.

After joining the El Paso Locomotive in 2021 from the Barca Residency Academy in Casa Grande, Arizona, the midfielder scored 13 goals in 42 USL Championship games while assisting on seven. Last November, he scored in the U.S. U-20 national team's 2-1 loss to Mexico, for which he is also eligible. He's expected to be an important part of Coach Mikey Varas' U.S. squad at this month's Concacaf U-20 Men's Championship, which serves as qualifying for both the 2023 U-20 World Cup and men's soccer at the 2024 Olympics.

Luna arrived at the Barca Academy at age 15 from the San Jose Earthquakes youth program, which he entered at age 12 after playing for Palo Alto SC.

According to Real Salt Lake's press release, to get Luna's MLS "Homegrown rights," RSL exchanged $50,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) with Earthquakes, which could receive additional GAM if Luna reaches various service and performance milestones achieved by Luna.

Tom Bogart of reported that El Paso is getting a $250,000 transfer fee in the deal.

1 comment about "Record transfer: Real Salt Lake lands teen standout Diego Luna".
  1. humble 1, June 3, 2022 at 5:44 p.m.

    Interesting case. Thanks for putting it out there. USL pathway beginning to produce and providing an alternative pathway to latino players for growth and development.  Luna and Jonothan Gomez (FC Dallas -> Louisville City -> Real Sociedad B) are both 2003 birth year, both launched from USL Championship, both eligible to play for Mexico.  USL Championship got it's D2 status just 5 years ago in 2017.  They did not have academies back then.  Seems like peanuts, $250,000, but if Luna works out, he becomes a point of reference for others.  USL is still building out their pyramid, USL League 1 needs to fill out. Their Academy system, a very diffrent model to MLS Next, is just finishing it's second season and has a lot of room for growth as well, giving opportunities to high school age players that either prefer the USL Academy model of playing-up or were overlooked by or outside the range of MLS Next Academies.  Either way, more opportunties for all players to grow and develop.  All good.  Wish Diego best of luck at RSL.  Great stadium, great city, enjoy!  Keep it going!

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