What’s unique about Ted Ku-DiPietro?

It could be his last name. (“I don’t think anyone else has it,” he said.)

Or that he is one of nine children. (Including the parents, he said, “We could build our own team.”)

From a soccer standpoint, it’s his pathway to a D.C. United homegrown contract, a deal the MLS club announced Thursday. He signed a two-year contract, with two club-held option years.

The Oakton native becomes the 17th local prospect since 2009 to join the MLS club but the first to follow a secondary path.

Like his predecessors, the midfielder began in United’s youth academy. In 2019, at age 17, he began playing as an amateur for Loudoun United, D.C.'s second-division pro team. A year later, when D.C. did not offer him an MLS deal, he settled for a USL Championship contract with the Loudoun squad.

All other D.C. homegrowns have signed their first pro contracts directly with the MLS team.

“The goal was always to play first-team soccer,” he said in an interview this week. “My outlook was always positive, even though you could say I took a slower route. It was perfect for me in the way I was developing the last couple years.”

After a 2020 season abbreviated by injury and the coronavirus pandemic, Ku-DiPietro led Loudoun in scoring last year with seven goals and three assists in 30 appearances. He showed promise both in central midfield and on the wings.

“He has made great strides as a player since joining Loudoun United and we’re excited to see him continue to develop with our first team,” D.C. General Manager Lucy Rushton said in a written statement.

In training camp, which will open this weekend at United Performance Center in Leesburg, D.C. Coach Hernán Losada and his staff will begin assessing whether Ku-DiPietro is ready for first-team duty or needs further experience with Loudoun.

Ku-DiPietro, who will turn 20 on Jan. 28, is the second Loudoun player in the past seven months to sign an MLS homegrown contract. Jeremy Garay, an 18-year-old midfielder from Woodbridge, played for Loudoun as an amateur last season. He had committed to North Carolina State but opted to accept D.C.'s offer last summer.

Ku-DiPietro said he didn’t consider the college path, even though United had not offered him a contract right away.

“I never planned on it, never wanted to,” he said. “I just knew I wanted to be a pro player. How that was going to happen, I didn’t know yet.”

He played in the Arlington Soccer Association and for Oakton High for two years before committing full-time to United’s academy squad. He also entered an accelerated academic program to graduate in three years and turn pro in time for the 2020 season with Loudoun.

Seven homegrowns are expected to return to the D.C. roster this season: goalkeeper Bill Hamid; defenders Andy Najar, Donovan Pines and Jacob Greene; winger Kevin Paredes; midfielder Moses Nyeman; and attacker Griffin Yow. (Greene, 18, was assigned to Loudoun last season.)

Ku-DiPietro “gained valuable professional minutes over the last two years and we’re looking forward to his continued maturation as a player as he makes the jump up to the D.C. United first team,” Stewart Mairs, D.C.'s technical director and Loudoun’s general manager, said in a written statement.

When he was younger, Ku-DiPietro attended MLS matches at RFK Stadium and reported to the old venue in the District for academy workouts. His father has had season tickets for a few years.

And about that last name? His mother, Dorothea, has Chinese and German ancestry — that’s the Ku in their last name — and his father, Timothy, has Polish roots but was raised in part by an adoptive father with Italian lineage (DiPietro).

Ted is fourth-oldest among the nine children whose age range is about 20 years. An older brother played Division III soccer at Marymount University in Arlington, and a younger sister is an elite youth player.

“It’s insane at home — super loud all the time, can’t get any peace,” he said, laughing. “But we have so much fun together.”

Notes: United announced it will open the preseason schedule Jan. 29 against Inter Miami in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It’s also slated to face the Los Angeles Galaxy on Feb. 19 in Carson, Calif. In between, the team will play at least two matches in Indio, Calif. The season opener is Feb. 26 against Charlotte FC in Washington.