A few days after making his third straight preseason start for Sporting Kansas City’s first team, Sporting KC II defender and 19-year-old Academy product Kaveh Rad was approached by Manager Peter Vermes.
In that moment, Vermes told Rad he had earned an MLS contract. He was about to become the 11th Academy product on Sporting’s roster—the most in Major League Soccer.
“I just feel like I was overcome with emotion at that point and so happy for my family because they only want to see me succeed,” said Raid, whose twin brother Jahon plays for Sporting KC II at the USL Championship level.
A native of North Carolina, Rad has started 34 of 36 matches for Sporting Kansas City II in the USL Championship over the last two seasons. He enjoyed a breakout year for the club in 2019, signing an amateur academy contract and making 22 USL Championship appearances under head coach Paulo Nagamura. The defender started 14 matches for Sporting KC II during a shortened 2020 campaign, leading the team in minutes (1,260) and passes (871) while starting in four of the club’s five wins.
Needless to say, Rad had a decent amount of professional experience heading into Sporting’s four-week training camp in Arizona last month. It was then, however, that he truly caught the eye of Sporting’s technical staff.
“I was incredibly impressed with the way that he performed during the preseason,” Vermes said during Tuesday’s press conference. “I just like his mentality in the position. I also like his instincts as well. He’s well deserving of the opportunity as well.”
Kaveh and Jahon moved from Durham, North Carolina, to Kansas City to join the Sporting KC Academy in 2016. They have lived with a host family for most of the time since then and both have reached long-held goals to become professionals.
By sixth or seventh grade, Rad said, he knew that soccer would be among his top priorities. Doing it for a living is something different altogether—and remarkably rewarding.
“Getting paid to play soccer is the best job,” he said, adding that his chief intention now is to improve on a daily basis and help Sporting contend for championships.
“I’ve seen Kaveh be vocal in the Academy and with the second team,” Vermes said. “He’s going to have to get that confidence with the first team, and that comes with time. Sometimes you’ve got to be nasty in that position, and he has that as well.
Vermes continued: “I think he plays the position with the kind of intensity and confidence that the position should be played.
Rad joins Grayson Barber, Gianluca Busio, Ozzie Cisneros, Cam Duke, Tyler Freeman, Wilson Harris, Felipe Hernandez, Jaylin Lindsey, Daniel Salloi and Brooks Thompson as Academy products on Sporting’s roster, which has become decidedly younger this offseason with the likes of Barber, Cisneros, Harris and Thompson all inking Homegrown deals in recent months.
“We’re putting a huge emphasis in our academy—in people, in time and in financial investment,” Vermes said. “I think we’re starting to produce some players who are coming out and evolving. In order for them to get better, they’re going to have to go through the system.”