San Diego Loyal SC has signed 18-year-old Loyal Select product Xavi Gnaulati to his first professional contract. | Photo courtesy San Diego Loyal SC
SAN DIEGO – San Diego Loyal SC announced on Friday the club had signed 18-year-old Loyal Select midfielder and San Diego native Xavi Gnaulati to his first professional contract, pending league and federation approval. Gnaulati is the second local product and first since Duran Ferree to move through the SD Loyal development pathway to a professional contract with the First Team.
“It’s been a real joy watching Xavi grow, develop as a man and a player, and work extremely hard to achieve his dream,” said SD Loyal Head Coach Nate Miller. “The staff and his teammates believe deeply in Xavi and will push him to continue to take big strides forward. This is only the beginning for Xavi and we look forward to his continued development as a professional now.”
The midfielder from Cardiff by the Sea was signed to an academy contract in 2021, earning the opportunity to train and compete with the first team. Gnaulati made his first USL Championship 18-man roster on July 14, 2021 in a 2-1 win over Orange County SC at Torero Stadium. The teenager made his SD Loyal debut in a 2-1 win over Albion San Diego in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on April 6, 2022. Gnaulati went 79 minutes in the club’s tournament debut.
“It is incredibly rewarding to see the second local San Diego product progress from our Loyal Select program to the first team,” said SD Loyal President Ricardo Campos. “This community has so much talent and we are proud to provide the development pathway to elevate players to the next level. The future is very bright in San Diego.”
Established in 2021, the Loyal Select academy program gives top youth players representing regions and clubs all around San Diego County the opportunity to train and compete in a professional environment and provides a clear path to the SD Loyal first team. While remaining with their respective youth clubs for training and matches, Loyal Select players get the unique opportunity to compete in a full USL Academy League season, facing elite talent from across the country.