Before David Beckham rode in wearing only his underpants to rescue American soccer, a 14-year-old named Freddy Adu threatened to become the gameâ€™s biggest superstar Stateside.
The MLSâ€™ youngest ever player seemed destined for the top but it hasnâ€™t quite worked out that way. Now heâ€™s fighting for a contract with English Championship club Blackpool.
Adu was only a teenager when he made his dÃ©but for DC United back in 2004. The then 14-year-old became the leagueâ€™s youngest player and a poster-boy for the sport in America.
Even the great PelÃ© sang the youngsterâ€™s praises but relatively unsuccessful stints atÂ Benfica, Monaco, and Philadelphia Union meant Adu hasnâ€™t quite lived up to the hype.
Last March he left MLS again to sign for Brazilian outfit Bahia but made just four league appearances and was released at the end of 2013 with club officials citing his â€œtechnical deficiencies.â€
Adu was born in Ghana and lived there until he was eight-years-old when his family moved to Maryland.
His soccer prowess was quickly noticed and he was soon pitched in against boys in older age groups.
His ability saw himÂ enrolled in the US Olympic development and then US Soccerâ€™s academy programmes.
Adu was selected by DC United to much fanfare in the 2004 MLS Superdraft. Â On April 3 of the same year he became the youngest player to appear in a leagueÂ game when he came on as a substitute in the clash with theÂ San Jose Earthquakes.
Two weeks later, he became the leagueâ€™s youngest scorer, netting in a 3â€“2 defeat to theÂ MetroStars. The same season he was an MLS Cup winner with DC and was selected on the MLS All-Star team in his dÃ©but year, and again in 2006.
Adu played under-age soccer for the US national team and captained theÂ U-20s in the 2007 World Cup. He wasÂ called up to the senior squad by Bruce ArenaÂ in January 2006 for aÂ friendly matchÂ againstÂ Canada.
Aduâ€™s substitute appearance in the game saw him Â become the youngest player to dÃ©but with the U.S. national side. The player once dubbed â€˜the next PelÃ©â€™Â played 17 times for the USA scoring twice but hasnâ€™t featured since 2011.
Heâ€™s currently training with Championship side Blackpool with a view to securing a contract. While the attacker may not have met the lofty expectations heaped on his 14-year-old shoulders, Adu may yet get a second shot at stardom. Heâ€™s still aged just 24.