When school starts this fall, Caden Stafford will wake up each morning to train for 1 1/2 hours before doing schoolwork from 10:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
In the afternoon, more soccer practice. Pretty much every weekend, a match.
Stafford, who plays for the 2003 SDA Nike team, was invited to the MLS Club Philadelphia Union, an American professional soccer club in Chester, Pa. that competes in Major League Soccer.
It was a dream come true for him.
“This is exactly what I want to do,” Stafford says, adding that he has not thought twice about leaving his Cincinnatus home for his junior and senior years of high school. Most of the men from Philadelphia Union Youth Development Academy will go on to play professionally, semi-professionally or for Division 1 colleges.
Stafford hopes for a career in soccer. He started playing the sport at age 5. He looks to Cristiano Ronaldo for inspiration. “I feel like I’m kind of like him. I’m tall and fast like he is, and I play like him,” he says.
Until two years ago, Stafford was a center midfielder. Then his high school coach moved him up top. Now he plays striker.
He scored the most goals (42) and the most assists (34) for Cincinnatus High School this fall, leading the team to a Section 3 title against Poland in a 3-2 championship game.
Stafford credits his SDA team with “motivating me to be the best player I can be.” It was during his SDA games at the Visit Raleigh Showcase in December in North Carolina that recruiters from the Philadelphia Union Youth Academy first saw Stafford play. They communicated with his coach Shannon Colton and watched him play again before inviting him for a tryout.
“They asked me to come down and train with them for a week and see how I liked it,” Stafford says. He liked it a lot.
So now he looks forward to gaining new technical and tactical skills with the Philadelphia Union Academy — and playing professionally.