On The Field - by Mike Magee
Mike Magee joined the U.S. Under-17 full-time residency program in 2000 and quickly blossomed into one of the team’s top offensive threats. Magee, who scored in the 2001 FIFA Under-17 World Championship against eventual champion France, finished his Under-17 career with six goals in 14 internationals. Since then, he decided to forego college and turn pro, but instead of following U-17 teammates Jordan Stone, Ed Johnson, Santino Quaranta and Justin Mapp to Major League Soccer, Magee decided to try his luck in Europe.
In his own words, here is Magee’s take on his time in Europe and his upcoming pro career …
Right around CONCACAF qualifying with the U.S. Under-17 National Team (April 2001) I made the decisions that I wanted to turn pro. I talked with Eddie (Johnson) and Santino (Quaranta) because they signed pro contracts before qualifying, and they told me what it was like to be a pro, what I could expect and that it wasn’t something they regretted at all. I also talked with our Under-17 coach John Ellinger (U.S. Under-17 MNT head coach) and Bob Bradley (Chicago Fire head coach), who I know from Chicago. They are two people with a lot of soccer knowledge and were very forthcoming and really helped me out.
Throughout residency, John Ellinger would always talk to us about the decisions that would face us as we progressed with our careers. Right around the time we went through qualifying, I was contacted by Major League Soccer. And then as the World Championship approached (September 2001) I began getting some interest from foreign clubs. I knew then that I had to consider each option and weigh them all out.
At that point everything pointed toward me needing to go pro to become the player I wanted to be. After the World Championship I made my decision to go to Europe.
Once I decided that I wanted to go to Europe my agent sorted through the teams that had contacted him. The first team I went to was Viking in Norway, and I went there in early May of this year.
I was with Viking for 10 days. Everything was fine and I liked it, and it was a nice level of play, but I wanted to see if I could do better and test my ability somewhere else. I had some things lined up with some Dutch clubs, so from there I headed to Holland.
I went to Ajax, where I had a tryout lined up. I was very excited because Ajax is such a big club, and they have such a great history. I don’t exactly understand it, but because of my age I couldn’t sign a pro contract there. I think I needed to be 18 years old to sign, so after that I returned home.
While I was home Bob Bradley was gracious enough to invite me out to train with the Chicago Fire a few times. That was a great experience and opened my eyes to the level of play in MLS.
I returned to Europe and went to Sweden almost a month ago. The team I was with there was Cafe Opera, and I was there for just over 20 days. It is a decent level of play, it is a great training environment and they are very good with young players.
In Sweden I can train with the first team but I can’t play with them – again because of my age. So I train with the first team and then play games with the reserves. I’ve played in two games so far.
I don’t know if I like Sweden. The team is very good for me, but I don’t know if the things off the field are right for me right now.
Now I’m in Spain for this tournament, and from here I will return to the U.S. The next step will be to look for other places to play and examine my options. My agent does most of the talking with the other clubs and setting up the trials. He’s mentioned a few clubs, but I don’t know what will come of it. I’m confident that eventually things will work out in Europe.
When I made that decision to turn pro last year, I wanted to concentrate on becoming a better soccer player. I thought then and I still think now that turning pro is the best way for me to do that.