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Five Things To Know About U.S. Men’s Soccer Captain Tyler Adams

The 22-year-old phenom knows how to handle himself on and off the field.

American fans have been chanting, “it’s called soccer!” at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. While most of the U.S. typically pays attention to the NFL and NBA this time of year, the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team has captured everyone’s attention, reaching the knockout round for the first time in a generation with a 1-0 win over Iran to advance out of Group B.

Now, you can’t have a major sport without Black folks being part of it, and with soccer being the most popular spectator sport in the world, a brother is leading the team. And going into Saturday’s (Dec. 3) match against the Netherlands, Tyler Adams, the 22-year-old captain, will take center stage.

So here are five things you should know about him.

  • He’s been playing professional soccer since he was 16.

    After coming out of the U.S. Soccer Residency program, Adams debuted as a midfielder for the New York Red Bulls in 2015, according to U.S. Soccer. He scored his first professional goal for the team in an international match against Chelsea, with a header past the goalkeeper. The Red Bulls won 4-2.

    He went on to help the team win the MLS Supporters’ Shield in 2018. He moved on to RB Leipzig in Germany in 2019 and helped them win the German Cup for the first time. In 2022 he joined Leeds United in West Yorkshire, UK, and has played for that Premier League team ever since.

  • He is the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team’s youngest captain.

    Born in Wappinger Falls, N.Y., in 1999, Adams was named captain of the team on Nov. 20, the day before the Group B opening match against Wales, which the U.S. went on to tie 0-0, according to MLSSoccer.com.

    He’s the youngest captain since Walter Bahr, who led the team in the 1950 World Cup. He is also the youngest captain participating in the entire tournament. So far, his leadership has paid off as the U.S. team advanced into the knockout round by beating Iran 1-0.

  • When training for the pros, he traveled 150 miles roundtrip daily.

    Adams' hometown is significantly far from the Red Bulls training facility in Whippany, N.Y. But he made the sacrifice with the help of his mother, Melissa Russo, a true soccer mom. She drove her son to practice but eventually gave him her Honda Accord to make the daily trip.

    By making the trip, he moved up in the Red Bulls Academy system. When USA team scouts came to upstate New York looking to fill spots on the Youth National Team, Red Bulls Academy Director Bob Montgomery introduced them to Adams, knowing he was more advanced than most players his age.

  • He backs his teammates at the best and worst moments.

    The victory over Iran came because of a 38th-minute goal scored by fellow midfielder Christian Pulisic who suffered an…ahem…painful sacrifice when he crashed straight into the Iranian goalkeeper, resulting in a pelvic contusion. Being the captain that he is, Adams led his teammate off the field, and he later posted a photo of the two on social media.

  • He exhibits grace under pressure.

    The day before the match with Iran, Milad Javanmardi, a journalist with Iran's PressTV, attempted to scold Adams about the mispronunciation of his country's name. "Our country is named ur·aan, not eye·ran. Please, once and for all, let's get this clear." He then asked a question about racial discrimination in the United States.

    Adams graciously apologized for the flub, then went on to say he: "grew up in a white family with obviously an African American heritage and background as well, So, I had a little bit of different cultures and I was a very, very easily able to assimilate in different cultures. So, you know, not everyone has that, that ease and the ability to do that. And obviously it takes longer to understand and through education, I think it's super important. Like you just educated me now on the pronunciation of your country."

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