Erik Palmer-Brown’s demeanor is such that one couldn’t possibly ascertain that he is a part of history.
The 16-year-old Lee’s Summit teen comes off quiet, stoic and humble. A talented soccer player, the high school junior never comes off as full of himself. Palmer-Brown’s nature is more of a quiet confidence than a cocky display of pride.
Earlier this month, Palmer-Brown became the youngest player in the history of Sporting KC to sign a professional ‘Homegrown Player’ contract with the Major League Soccer club.
Palmer-Brown, who also plays for the U.S. men’s under-17 national team, became the youngest active player in MLS after he signed and is eligible to play in any Sporting KC match this season.
“It’s a great feeling, but it’s not done yet,” Palmer-Brown said Aug. 23 before a morning training session with Sporting’s reserve team, for which he first appeared in a game last June. “I still got to work harder everyday and come out here with the mentality that I want to get out there (with Sporting KC) someday. It’s not like I’m just here and I’m a practice player. I want to get out there on the field and be able to play with the rest of the guys.”
When Palmer-Brown signed his contract Aug. 2, Sporting KC’s manager Peter Vermes praised him for his talent level, skill and infectious work ethic. Vermes, who coached the MLS All-Stars in a recent MLS All-Star game at Sporting Park, said the organization feels Palmer-Brown, a centerback, has ‘a high ceiling.’
“It comes down to a couple of things,” Vermes said during Palmer-Brown’s introductory news conference. “You look at how a player progresses, you look at what his potential is and where you think his ceiling is. With Erik, I think everybody feels that he’s got an incredible amount of potential, we think he has a very high ceiling and as I told him when we met about all of this, as much as all of us believe in your potential and what your ceiling can be and that you have talent, it’s going to come down to how much you want to put into this.”
Palmer-Brown attends O’Hara High School. He has many friends at the school, which he attends in the afternoon after training sessions in the morning. Administrators at the private, Catholic school in south Kansas City have treated him well and worked out a schedule conducive to his professional duties.
“It’s going really smooth right now with all the help that O’Hara is giving me,” said Palmer-Brown, who went through a similar process this past spring at the U.S. Soccer Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla. while training for months with several dozen of the nation’s top elite youth soccer players in the morning and attending classes in the afternoon. “They let me come in for like the last three hours of the day. Then if I need any help I can go in early before practice or something like that. Or after school, they are there to help me afterward, too, so it’s really easy right now. Not too many problems right now. It’s very fun.”
A former member of Sporting KC Academy for developing players, Palmer-Brown relishes the fact he is now getting paid to play, but you could barely tell from talking with him.
“I still want to go to college,” he said. “Probably somewhere local like UMKC or something like that where I can get my classes in and stuff. That’s really important. Sometimes you could get injured and not be able to play so you have to go to college.”