Graphic courtesy Sacramento Republic FC
USL Championship club Sacramento Republic FC announced Monday that it had signed 15-year-old midfielder Rafael Jauregui to a professional contract, making Jauregui the youngest professional player in the club’s history. Jauregui competed with the Republic FC senior team in Championship play last season on a USL Academy contract, a mechanism which allowed him to gain exposure to the professional level of competition while still a teenager.
After seeing how Jauregui handled himself among pros during the 2020 campaign, Republic FC coaches and front office staff were confident he was ready to compete with the first team full-time.
“Rafa is a special player and a special kid that doesn’t come along often. In 2020, as a 15-year old in first team training, he was routinely the best player in small-sided games,” said Republic FC General Manager Todd Dunivant. “Rafa’s poise, character and passion for the game reflect his family values and the countless hours spent in his neighborhood park. We’re proud to elevate another Sacramento native from our academy to the first team.”
“Rafa embodies everything we look for in a member of our club and academy – his eagerness to learn, desire to improve every day and his love for the game are infectious,” said Republic FC Academy Director and Head Coach Dennis Sanchez. “Our entire Academy is excited to watch him elevate his game to the next level, and continue to grow as a player and a person within our first team environment.”
Jauregui first joined the Republic FC youth development pathway in 2017, moving from Sacramento’s San Juan Soccer Club to the SRFC Academy. In 2020, he became the club’s thirteenth USL Academy signing before making club history by becoming the youngest player to appear in a league match, coming on as a second-half substitute in Republic FC’s July 20 matchup with Reno 1868 FC. He would then become the youngest in club history to start a league match on September 30 against Tacoma Defiance.
“It doesn't really exist in any other sport or any other team sport is that you can grow up in Sacramento with your favorite team, work your tail off as a young member in the academy, and then do exactly what Rafa did – become a professional,” said Republic FC President & COO Ben Gumpert. “There is something very special about dreaming of one day playing in your hometown stadium in front of your hometown crowd and in front of your family, and this is proof that it can happen in Sacramento.”
Jauregui adds to Republic FC’s impressive youth development track record. During the 2020 campaign, four players 18-years-old or younger made a combined 29 appearances, the most in the Championship for a non-MLS affiliate team. In total, over 30 Republic FC Academy players have been called up to a national team camp and nearly 50 have signed to NCAA Division I college soccer programs.