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Teenage Soccer Phenom Makes Media Debut For San Jose Earthquakes

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- Media Day at the San Jose Earthquakes facility had an extra buzz Wednesday, as the team's newest players included a local standout who is among the youngest players ever to sign a league contract.

In December, the Earthquakes signed 15-year-old Pleasanton native Jacob Akanyiridge to a contract. He is the youngest player ever signed by San Jose, and - now 16 - currently the third youngest player in Major League Soccer.

Akanyirige, who had been playing on the Quakes development academy squad, told KPIX 5 he had no idea what was going on when an Earthquakes staffer pulled him aside in a hotel lobby to offer him a contract.

"I just said thank you for the opportunity, and thank you for having me," he said.

When asked if it was a "yes" or a "Hell, yes!" Akanyirige replied "Hell, yes!" with a laugh.

The teenager, who's parents are from Ghana, was born in Pleasanton and grew up playing in the competitive youth leagues of the Tri-Valley area.

If you're wondering, he still gets dropped off to practice every morning by his mom.

"Jacob has shown an incredible amount of potential at such a young age," said Earthquakes General Manager Jesse Fioranelli in a statement released by the club. "We challenged him to play above his age this year and were impressed by his maturity and technical abilities. We are confident he will continue to develop with regular first team training exposure."

Akanyirige was last competing for Pleasanton's Ballistic United Soccer Club, playing on the Under-19 squad even though he was age-eligible for the Under 17s.

Taking the field and playing in front of the hometown crowd for the first time will be special.

"I think it's going to be an exciting moment," he said. "Just a great moment, great feeling, and I'm really looking forward to it."

For Akanyirige, the goal for this season is to develop as a player, and also to adapt to life a professional athlete at just 16 years old. First game of the season is in San Jose at Avaya Stadium on March 3.

The Earthquakes aren't saying how much they are paying Akanyirige. But the league minimum is about $55,000, not bad for a 16-year-old.

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