When 18-year-old forward Jamar Beasley returned to Fort Wayne,
Ind., from a trip to Orlando with the under-20 national team in
February to train with MLS teams, he had some great news for his
father, Henry. "Dad, I scored on Campos!" he said, referring to
the Chicago Fire's Jorge Campos, one of the top goalkeepers in
the world. With his performance in Florida, Jamar drew the
attention of the league's deputy commissioner, Sunil Gulati, who
called the Beasleys a week later and offered Jamar an MLS
By accepting, he became the youngest player ever to sign with
Project-40, an MLS program in which prospects skip college to
develop their skills in a professional soccer environment. But
unlike top youngsters in other countries (chart, right), the
5'10", 160-pound Beasley won't be rolling in dough. "I'm not
concerned about the salary," he says. "If I just worry about
soccer, the rest will fall into place."
At South Side High, Jamar set a state record with 107 career
goals. He also averaged 12 points and five assists as a senior
point guard, attracting interest from basketball programs like
Wake Forest and Valparaiso. Though he graduates in June, Beasley
won't join the team to which he has been assigned, the New
England Revolution, full time until he has finished training
with the U.S. U-20 team in August.
Breathless MLS coaches have already anointed Beasley the avatar
of 21st century U.S. soccer. "He's got the technical ability of
a Brazilian player, the speed of an American sprinter and the
mental speed and toughness of a Western European player," says
Revolution coach Thomas Rongen. "Ten years from now there will
be a specific style of play associated with the U.S. national
team, and he epitomizes that style."
"He's very improvisational in a natural way," says Tim
Hankinson, the Project-40 coach. "You don't develop that through
training, and that's why people are so excited about him."
U.S. World Cup team
FASHIONABLY LATE ARRIVALS
With only two months left before the U.S.'s World Cup opener
against Germany in Paris, coach Steve Sampson is still adding to
the number of candidates for his 22-man roster. "The only reason
I've increased the field is that I feel there are players that
can help us," Sampson says. "Certainly a few players have helped
themselves tremendously in the last couple of months."
In fact, two players who didn't participate in World Cup
qualifying not only might make the national team but also may
start in France: Chad Deering, a former Indiana midfielder who
now plays for VfL Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga, and
defender David Regis, a Frenchman who has applied for American
After repeatedly promising Deering, 27, an opportunity to suit
up for the U.S., Sampson finally called him in for a friendly
against Paraguay on March 14, and Deering scored on a header in
the 2-2 draw. "I've always said that Chad deserves to be on the
team," says Claudio Reyna, America's playmaking midfielder and
Deering's Wolfsburg teammate. "All he wanted was a chance, and I
think he's off the bubble now."
Sampson acknowledges that Deering works well with Reyna, is
skilled at keeping possession of the ball and has shown a
willingness to retreat defensively when the attacking midfielder
moves forward--a rarity among U.S. defensive midfielders. "I
told the team in January that I'm not necessarily going to
select the best individuals," says Sampson. "I'm going to select
the best players who will perform as a team."
A gifted defender for Karlsruher SC of the Bundesliga, Regis
(pronounced ray-ZHEE), 29, was born in Martinique, grew up in
France and has an American wife. He received his green card last
month and arrived in Los Angeles on Monday in hopes of
accelerating the naturalization process. U.S. immigration laws
require that a green-card holder be married to an American for
three years before becoming a citizen. Regis's third wedding
anniversary comes on June 10--eight days after World Cup rosters
must be submitted. But, says Sampson, "typically with the three
years, there's a give or take of a few months on either side."
If Regis is eligible, Sampson says he would compete with Jeff
Agoos at starting left back. As a left-footed, tight-marking
defender with an offensive flair, Regis has three attributes in
short supply on the U.S. team. Through Sunday he had scored four
goals in 25 starts for Karlsruher SC this season, including the
lone goal in its 1-0 defeat of Wolfsburg.
Sampson will name 18 of his World Cup players the week after the
U.S.'s next friendly, on April 22 against Austria in Vienna.
"Right now I could name 15 players who are going to be on the
team," he says. "At least 10 players still have to show me
something between now and June 2."
MILUTINOVIC'S LATEST STOP
In December soccer's great wanderer, Bora Milutinovic, was hired
to coach Nigeria, an exquisitely skilled yet volatile team
equally capable of advancing deep into the World Cup or flaming
out in the first round. Since then, the Yugoslavian-born
Milutinovic, who has coached the U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica,
has been flitting from Istanbul to Milan to London, spreading
his gospel to his players based in Europe. Bora's travels have
also allowed him to avoid Nigeria's notoriously demanding
military government, which has run through three coaches since
the Super Eagles won the 1996 Olympic gold medal.
Skeptics are already questioning whether Milutinovic's defensive
tactics will mesh with his attacking team. (One Nigerian player
calls him "boring Bora.") Even Milutinovic isn't sure the
chemistry is right. "It's impossible to be a good team if you
don't have balance," he says. "Never have I had so many good
players, but so many of them are center forwards. Maybe I don't
have a good defense."
Nigerian defender Taribo West, who plays for Inter Milan, has a
different take. "We have no worries about him being too
defensive," says West. "If you have players on the field who
know what to do, then nobody really cares much about the coach."
For now, though, the fickle powers-that-be in Abuja appear happy
with Bora. "I meet Mr. President once," says Milutinovic,
referring to President General Sani Abacha. "Very nice man." All
that may change on April 22, when Bora pits his A team against
Germany in a friendly. His game plan? "My English is not so
good," he says, "but if I say, 'Let's play good,' then they will
Q & A
Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Cobi Jones is off to a running
start this season, leading MLS in scoring through Sunday with
eight points (two goals and four assists). As one of the
league's fastest players, he seemed like an ideal candidate to
address the subject of speed.
SI: What car do you drive?
Jones: Mercedes SL 320.
SI: Ever get a speeding ticket?
SI: How many?
Jones: One that I'll tell you about. I was going 70 in a 55.
SI: Did you pay the fine?
Jones: Yeah. But I had to go to driving school.
SI: What was that like?
Jones: They let me take an in-home driver's test. It was a written
test, so it wasn't too tough.
SI: So you passed it?
Jones: Yeah. Hey, aren't kids going to be reading this?
SI: Don't worry about it.
He may be the Kobe Bryant of U.S. soccer, having jumped from
high school straight to the pros, but Jamar Beasley is sure not
pulling down Bryant-like bucks ($1.2 million a year with the Los
Angeles Lakers). Here's how Beasley compares to other precocious
soccer players around the world:
Age: 18. Country: U.S.
Club: New England Revolution
Annual salary: $24,000
Comment: Jamar also will receive as much as $37,500 over the
next 10 years for college tuition.
Age: 18. Country: England
Annual salary: $800,000
Comment: Youngest English national team player ever has scored
19 goals in 30 club matches this season.
Age: 17. Country: Argentina
Club: Real Madrid
Annual salary: $65,000
Comment: Real paid a $1.3 million transfer fee to acquire
Esteban from Argentinos Juniors, the club that gave Maradona his
VICENTE RODRIGUEZ GUILLEN
Age: 16. Country: Spain
Annual salary: $50,000
Comment: Levante is demanding a $215 million transfer fee from
any other club that wants to acquire Vicente, 6 1/2 times the
record for such a fee.