Kyle Beckerman, one of the top American youth players, has picked a pro career in the United States rather than play in college or overseas.
The 18-year-old attacking midfielder from Crofton and Arundel High has signed a 4 1/2 -year contract with Major League Soccer that, with performance bonuses, could pay as much as $40,000 a year.
Beckerman has been allocated to Project 40, a league program for young players that includes a team in the A-League, and will be selected by an MLS team later this week in a lottery draft.
"I felt that I wanted to get started and in the thick of things," said Beckerman. "I felt I should start in MLS and make my name here and see what's up after I get established first."
Beckerman, a member of the U.S. under-20 national team, had a 10-day tryout in April with Hertha Berlin, which plays in the Bundesliga, Germany's top pro league. He spent three days training with Hertha's first team.
Beckerman's agent, Rob Moskowitz, said a likely reduction in foreign players on European reserve teams and Hertha wanting to sign Beckerman for 2001-2002, not this year, helped persuade Beckerman to choose MLS's relative security.
"They flat-out said that they like him," said Moskowitz. " They said he was kind of in-between the first team and the reserve team."
Beckerman also strongly considered attending the University of Maryland this fall.
"College is a good idea, but the play is not as good as MLS, and you have distractions other than soccer, like school and parties," he said. "With MLS, you can just concentrate on soccer."
Beckerman likely will be picked by New York, New England, Tampa Bay or San Jose. His preference would be the MetroStars.
"It's close to home, so my parents can watch me play," he said.