At age 16, Michael Seaton has graduated from D.C. United’s academy and become a first-team player with a homegrown pro contract.
So now what?
Seaton will withdraw from Central High School, where he is a junior, and work with a homeschooling tutor arranged by United (most likely the same one who taught Bobby Convey and Santino Quaranta when they signed with United at that age). Under the arrangement, Seaton will be able to train with the full squad each morning and study in the afternoon.
He is scheduled to report to training camp later this week and accompany the team to both Bradenton, Fla., next week and Orlando next month.
“He matured last year, made real strides and rose to the challenges,” General Manager Dave Kasper said in a telephone interview. “It’s now time for a pro environment.”
Once the season starts, Seaton will practice each day and play in reserve matches. “We’ll take it slowly with him,” Kasper said, “but at some point, we ‘ll want to get him more than reserve games.”
Short-term loans to the lower-division clubs are possible, Kasper said, but because of Seaton’s age, he will not go on a season-long stay like Conor Shanosky, 21, did last year with the NASL’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers. He could also continue playing academy matches.
“When I was with the U-15s, I always told my parents I’m going pro when I turn 16,” he said. “My mom is pretty serious, but she was emotional when it finally happened. It was exciting for the whole family.”
His mother had emigrated from Jamaica without him, seeking a brighter future for the family before bringing him. “And then one day [in Jamaica] I was lying in bed and I heard her coming into the house,” he said. Before long, “she was taking me to America.”
Seaton lives in Capitol Heights, Md., with his mother, stepfather and 5-year-old brother. He has played for the Freestate Soccer Alliance, a youth program based in Bowie, and United’s academy.
Central High is best known for basketball, so when he told classmates and friends he was going to leave school to concentrate on soccer, “they didn’t get too excited; all they know about it is kicking a ball. But when I said I am going to be a professional, they gave me a different look!”
Although Seaton is 6 feet and 180 pounds, good size for a 16-year-old, “I was looking at Brandon McDonald,” he said of United’s muscle-packed center back, “and I know I’ve got some work to do.”
Seaton, who has dual citizenship, is a member of Jamaica’s under-17 national set-up and slated to join the squad ahead of CONCACAF’s final round of qualifying for the U-17 World Cup April 6-19 in Panama. In the Caribbean qualifying stage last summer, he scored in each of Jamaica’s victories: against Bermuda (5-0) and Antigua & Barbuda (4-0).
“Jamaica will always be in my heart,” he said. “I came here for the opportunity, but I love Jamaica.”
With Seaton and other pro prospects on display at the CONCACAF tournament, United clearly did not want to risk losing him to a Central American or Caribbean club.
Seaton’s favorite players? A pair of Premier League-based forwards with rocky reputations:
Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli — “Not how he acts,” he said, laughing, “but how he performs” — and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez because “he is so neat with the ball and keeps it simple.”