Gabriel Slonina, the Chicago Fire's 18-year-old goalkeeper, has been transferred to Chelsea for a base transfer fee The Athletic's Paul Tenorio reported to be $10 million. Add-ons could make the total payments reach $15 million.
Slonina will remain with the Fire on loan through the end of the 2022 MLS season.
Slonina was born to Polish immigrants and grew up in the Chicago suburb of Addison. He joined the Chicago Fire youth system at 10 years old and signed a Homegrown contract when he was 14.
He made is first MLS start with the Fire at the age of 16 on Aug. 4, 2021. The match with NYCFC ended in a 0-0 draw, making him the youngest goalkeeper in MLS history to earn a shutout.
Slonina's stats over the last 12 months:
2021: 11 games, 16 goals allowed (1.45 GAA), 4 shutouts.
2022: 23 games, 28 goals allowed (1.22 GAA), 10 shutouts.
He said it was a dream come true to play for the Fire.
"This club has become my second home, my second family," Slonina said in a statement, :and there are so many people that have played a big role in helping me get to where I am today."
Breaking into the Chelsea lineup won't be easy.
Senegalese national team star Edouard Mendy is the No. 1 keeper. The backup is Spaniard Kepa Arrizabalaga, signed for a transfer fee of $95 million in 2018. Kepa's big contract makes it difficult for other teams to consider acquiring him even if Chelsea might be willing to take a loss on his transfer. Until Slonina is 21, he will be exempt from FIFA's new rules regarding the number of players a team can loan out in a season.
Slonina played for U.S. youth teams, was approached by Poland about playing for its senior national team but committed his international future to the USA in May.
He was not released for the 2022 Concacaf Under-20 Men's Championship but would be, right now, the No. 1 choice for the 2023 Under-20 World Cup in Indonesia and 2024 Olympics in France.