Not too many people see their childhood dreams come true years before adulthood sets in, but that's exactly what happened to 16-year-old Nikolas Besagno yesterday. The Maple Valley native...
Not too many people see their childhood dreams come true years before adulthood sets in, but that’s exactly what happened to 16-year-old Nikolas Besagno yesterday.
The Maple Valley native and one-time Kennedy High School soccer player was taken with the first overall pick in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft by Real Salt Lake.
“Ever since I was about 10 and realized there was a professional league, this has been my dream,” Besagno said from his cellphone while flying from the draft in Baltimore to meet with the Salt Lake City media. “Back then, I wouldn’t have guessed it would happen so soon. I’m just really excited and a little overwhelmed.”
Besagno, who turned 16 in November, is the second-youngest player ever taken in the MLS draft. Last year, D.C. United made 14-year-old Freddy Adu the first overall pick.
“That’s exciting, knowing I’m one of the youngest,” said Besagno. “But that’s not the most important thing. I came out because it was the right time for me.”
As a freshman at Kennedy, Besagno earned first-team, all-league honors. He also played on F.C. United, a local club team. Last April, during his sophomore year, he was invited into U.S. Soccer’s Under-17 Residency program and moved to Florida to play with that team.
With Real Salt Lake, Besagno will continue to play under Ellinger, who will coach the expansion team.
“That will help a lot,” said Besagno. “He knows my strengths and weaknesses. He knows how to play me. I’ll feel comfortable playing for him.”
Even though Besagno lacked the predraft fanfare of Adu, last year’s top pick, Ellinger knew he couldn’t pass on the Washington native.
“He has all the tools to be a very young star in this league,” Ellinger told The Associated Press. “Knowing what I know, there’s no way I’m going to let somebody else get him. That’s why I had to get him with the first pick.”
Before the MLS season begins, Besagno will go back to Florida to finish his junior and senior years at the Edison Academic Center. He will also continue to play with the U-17 team as it begins qualifying for the U-17 World Championships in Costa Rica.
When he joins Real Salt Lake, he will be used as a defensive midfielder, though he doesn’t yet know how much playing time to expect.
Besagno’s older brother Jacob was a member of the Seattle University team that won a NCAA Division II national championship in December, one of many experiences Nikolas knows he will miss.
“I’ve thought about what kind of things a normal kid would be doing right now and I know there are things I’m going to miss out on,” said Besagno. “But this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I had to take it.”
• C.J. Klaas, University of Washington senior, was drafted in the third round by the San Jose Earthquakes.
Klaas, a two-time, first-team All-America selection, was the 32nd overall pick.
The Cherry Valley, Ill., native was also a semifinalist in each of the past two seasons for the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy, given to the nation’s top player.
In San Jose, Klaas will join the winner of this year’s Hermann Trophy, Danny O’Rourke. The Indiana midfielder led the Hoosiers to back-to-back national titles, and was taken with the fourth overall pick.
Bellarmine Prep graduate Tim Merritt was drafted with the 48th overall pick by D.C. United.