The next stop for Sporting Kansas City homegrown product Erik Palmer-Brown is a return home.
Palmer-Brown has traveled back to the United States after his loan with Portugal club Porto B expired on Dec. 31, and the plan is for him to join Sporting KC for the preseason later this month in Tucson, Ariz.
Palmer-Brown, 19, graduated from O’Hara High School in May 2015 — two years after he signed a professional contract to become the youngest player in Sporting KC history.
He was sent on loan to Porto B in February, but Sporting KC retained his rights. Porto B and Sporting KC discussed a potential permanent sale to move into effect after the loan expired, but those talks never reached a final stage.
Instead, Palmer-Brown is back on the Sporting KC roster, and after a successful stint with Porto B, he could slide into a competition for playing time at center back alongside longtime staple Matt Besler. Sporting KC will also consider Kevin Ellis and Ike Opara for that spot.
Palmer-Brown, who became the youngest defender to start an MLS match in May 2014, often publicized his desire to play overseas during his career. After Sporting KC turned down a series of high-dollar transfer offers for him, the loan to Portugal was made with the purpose of removing him from his comfort zone to focus on his development.
“We thought this would be a great place for him to gain some real experience in that he has a different county, a different language and a lot of opportunity to grow as a young man,” Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said after the move was made official last year.
Palmer-Brown quickly worked his way into a starting role with Porto B, which won its first championship last May in LigaPro, the second division of soccer in Portugal.
When he returned to Kansas City for a month during the summer — the break between seasons in Portugal — Palmer-Brown said this about his overseas experience: “For me now, it’s more of a professional lifestyle. I go home, and I think about training. I’m eating lunch and then resting up my body for the next day.
“Having two games a week with (Porto) B, it was really taxing on my body. I learned that I need to take care of my body in situations like that. I think I grew up in that aspect of the game.”
Even if he remains in Kansas City, Palmer-Brown could miss significant time this season — he is a possible selection for the United States Under-20 men’s national team, which will take part in the CONCACAF U-20 championship in February and March in Costa Rica. The tournament serves as the U-20 World Cup qualifier. The U-20 World Cup in South Korea will follow in May and June.
Sporting KC director of player personnel Brian Bliss is an assistant coach for the U.S. U-20 national team.