HERRIMAN, Utah (Friday, January 14, 2022) – Real Salt Lake has announced the signing of forward Axel Kei from the RSL Academy. At 14 years and 15 days, he is the youngest to ever sign with a team in Major League Soccer, surpassing an 18 year record held by Freddy Adu by 153 days. Kei joins RSL on a two-year contract.
“Over the last year Axel has proven to be one of the top attacking prospects in the country. His propensity in front of goal is well beyond his years, and coupled with his elite athleticism, he projects to become a goal-scoring force in our league in the years to come,” Real Salt Lake General Manager Elliot Fall said.
Kei, 14, is accustomed to making history within the Real Salt Lake organization. Last summer he helped lead RSL Academy’s U15 squad to the first-ever MLS Next Cup Championship, scoring five goals in five games, including a hat trick against Southern California’s Total Futbol Academy. The victory marked the first trophy for the RSL Academy since relocating from Mesa, Arizona to Herriman, Utah. At the conclusion of the tournament Kei was awarded the Golden Boot for the most goals scored at the U15 level during the tournament.
Since winning the MLS Next Cup, Kei has continued to develop and thrive within the RSL Academy system, competing primarily with the U17s, where he has scored six goals and six games.
On October 8, 2021 at Zions Bank Stadium Kei captured the attention of the sporting world when he entered as a substitute during a Real Monarchs match. Just 13 years, 8 months and 9 days at the time of the match, he made history as the youngest professional athlete in American team sports history. By comparison, no one younger than 15 has ever appeared in a match with one of Europe's Big-Five Leagues, including the Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1, the Premier League and Serie A.
Prior to joining the RSL Academy Kei spent three years playing for the LA Galaxy’s San Diego Youth Soccer Club. Born in the Ivory Coast, Kei was raised in Brazil where his father played professionally before his family relocated to San Diego, California in 2017.
Kei is the fifth Homegrown Player to sign with Real Salt Lake this week, joining a group of 13 other teammates to hail from the RSL Academy. RSL’s Homegrown Players include, Julio Benitez, Gavin Beavers, Andrew Brody, Bode Davis, Jeff Dewsnup, Zackery Farnsworth, Justen Glad, Chris Garcia, Aaron Herrera, Erik Holt, Axel Kei, David Ochoa, Jaziel Orozco and Jude Wellings.
Name: Axel Kei
Pronunciation: Axle KAY
Weight: 183 pounds
Date of Birth: December 30, 2007
Birthplace: Ivory Coast
Hometown: San Diego, California
Citizenship: United States
Last Club: RSL Academy
How Acquired: Signed on January 14, 2021
As of January 12, Real Salt Lake’s current roster headed into 2022 listed alphabetically by position is as follows:
Goalkeepers (4): Gavin Beavers, Jeff Dewsnup, Zac MacMath, David Ochoa
Defenders (9): Andrew Brody, Toni Datkovic, Zack Farnsworth, Justen Glad, Bret Halsey, Aaron Herrera, Erik Holt, Jaziel Orozco, Marcelo Silva
Midfielders (7): Julio Benitez, Nick Besler, Scott Caldwell, Maikel Chang, Damir Kreilach, Pablo Ruiz, Jude Wellings
Forwards (6): Bode Davis, Chris Garcia, Jonathan Menendez, Justin Meram, Rubio Rubin, Bobby Wood
Real Salt Lake finished the 2021 season in dramatic fashion, booking its place in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs on Decision Day before making a run to the Western Conference Final following a 14-14-6 regular season record. RSL will open the 2022 season on the road against Houston Dynamo FC on February 27 before returning to Rio Tinto Stadium for the home opener against Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday, March 7.
Tickets for Real Salt Lake’s home opener, as well as season tickets, are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 844.REAL.TIX or visiting www.RSL.com/tickets.
TRANSACTION: Real Salt Lake Axel Kei to a Homegrown Player contract.