When can we start calling them Sporting OKC?
The Kansas City Star
The link between Sporting Kansas City and Oklahoma City's Energy FC continued to expand on Monday, as the USL Pro expansion team announced the signing of midfielder David Leichty, a member of Sporting KC's Under-18 Academy team.
The 18-year-old from Overland Park signed a professional contract and will join the club for its inaugural season in 2014, lead by head coach Jimmy Nielsen. (Unless you're completely and totally new to soccer in this city, you should already know who he is.)
"It will be great to play for Jimmy Nielsen, a guy that I have looked up to from the first team, and be a part of the professional environment," Leichty said in team release. "I'm excited to learn from him and all that he has to offer from the coaching side of the game."
Leichty joined the SKC Academy during the 2009-10 season and received the 2013 Bob Gansler Award as the academy's most outstanding player. He appeared in all 18 games for the Sporting KC U-18 Academy team during the 2013-14 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season. He also appeared in three MLS reserve league matches in 2012. He was on Sporting KC's preseason roster in 2013.
A graduate of Shawnee Mission South High School, Leichty had 25 goals and 17 assists in three high school seasons.
"He is choosing a different direction than a lot of kids his age and choosing the professional way like I did in my youngers days," Nielsen said. "I am very excited for him. He has a huge passion for the game and I am very happy to have him on the team. I am confident that he has a bright soccer future."
Energy FC is one of Sporting KC's two affiliate clubs in the third tier of American soccer. As part of the arrangement between MLS and USL Pro, Kansas City will send two players to Oklahoma City this year on loan.
But the links don't stop there.
The team's first signing this year was former KC midfielder (and Overland Park native) Michael Thomas. Also signed this year: Former Sporting KC Academy graduate (and on the roster for SKC's 2013 season) Kyle Miller and former SKC draft pick Cyprian Hedrick.
Leichty wasn't the only academy product to make a decision on his future recently. Last week, 12 players from the U-18 team committed to playing collegiately.
• DEF Darby Cronin, UMKC (NCAA Division I)
• GK Andrew Dittemore, Missouri State (NCAA Division I)
• MID Andy Ericks, Colorado School of Mines (NCAA Division II)
• FWD Heath Honold, Wake Forest (NCAA Division I)
• DEF Mason Leonard, Drake (NCAA Division I)
• FWD Blake Levin, Baker (NAIA)
• DEF Matt Lewis, Fordham (NCAA Division I)
• MID Andy Lopez, North Carolina (NCAA Division I)
• MID Joey Piatczyc, West Virginia (NCAA Division I)
• FWD Cole Stevenson, Denver (NCAA Division I)
• GK Austin Williamson, Northeastern State University (NCAA Division II)
• FWD Zach Wright, North Carolina (NCAA Division I)