Growing up just up the road from Rio Tinto Stadium, Jahmani Stapleton always had his sights set on playing for the RSL Academy, as a young boy dreaming of dawning the Claret-and-Cobalt one day. And as one of the few Utahns on the U-15's roster, he has always been able to visualize being an Academy player differently than some of his teammates.

Stapleton grew up in West Jordan, Utah, where he started his soccer career playing for Utah United FC and La Roca South, honing his craft in the shadows cast by Rio Tinto Stadium. 

When he finally joined the Academy Stapleton had to adjust to being away from home while still being near home, trying to remain fully committed to the task at hand without the distractions of his family life getting in the way. 

"It's stressful sometimes because I want to go home," Stapleton said. "But I know I made a commitment and sacrifices to stay here."

The longer he plays at the RSL Academy, the more used to this new lifestyle he has gotten. Living, practicing, and going to school all in the same area has caused Stapleton to fine-tune his skills and establish his life here. He says he enjoys hanging out with friends and playing video games, but whenever he can, he tries to practice more and continue to get better.


One thing that Stapleton enjoys about the Academy lifestyle is how much help they get becoming good athletes, but more importantly, better people. 

"Playing for RSL Academy is really special because they help kids develop and become more than just a better player," Stapleton said. "They try to make us good students and good people in life. Especially with the first team and the Monarchs, they all support us and we know we're that close. It gives us motivation that we're closer to our dream."

Realizing his dream is something that Stapleton is working towards. Growing up watching Real Salt Lake play and seeing players who were once in his shoes have success is inspiring and helps motivate him to achieve his own goals.

This past week Stapleton has begun to see glimpses of that dream, anchoring a back line that haas advanced all the way to the MLS NEXT Cup final, just one game away from helping the team clinch back-to-back championships.