American teenager and former Barcelona youth player Ben Lederman has returned to the United States and will enroll at the U.S. Soccer residency program at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, reports The New York Times.
Lederman, 15, was invited to train at Barcelona's La Masia youth academy when he was 11, becoming the first American to receive that distinction. He has not represented the club on the field in over a year after FIFA punished Barcelona over what it deemed illegal international transfers.
FIFA Article 19, created in 2001, says youth players are not allowed to register with a team in another country until they are 18, with three exceptions Lederman did not meet.
For the past year, Lederman practiced with Barcelona every day, but was barred from playing in an official game. Lederman's family, which relocated from California to Spain in 2011, reportedly filed numerous appeals, all of which were rejected.
Spanish news outlet Mundo Deportivo reports FIFA ordered remaining ineligible Barcelona youth players to leave La Masia, which has churned out the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and a host of other players who have gone on to star for the storied club.
“The only option for him to play is to go back to the U.S.,” Ben’s father, Danny Lederman, wrote in a text message to The Times. “And that was the most important thing, as his goal is to make the 2017 under-17 team.”
Lederman took part in U.S. Soccer's inaugural “Futures Camp” this past May as one of 58 young players on display over the course of three days in Carson, California.
Many United States men's national team players over the years have come through the U.S. program at IMG, which has residency programs for athletes across numerous sports. In Bradenton, players train with U.S. U-17 manager Richie Williams and his staff while attending class at St. Stephens Episcopal School.
– Rohan Nadkarni