Last spring, things started to get real for Griffin Yow. Midway through his first season with the D.C. United academy, the forward received his first call-up to the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team in May and agents started to reach out. He had always wanted to become a professional soccer player. Those dreams started to manifest last year, and that process has only accelerated in recent months.
“More paths started to open for me,” Yow said. “My lifetime goal is to be a professional and that’s when I said, ‘This could actually be a possibility.’ I just have to keep working. Each step was definitely a big step that helped me because I had to perform even more.”
Yow seized his chance with the U-17 MNT and scored in his debut against England last October. He proceeded to find the back of the net in three of his first four appearances with the team when he tallied in a comeback effort against Brazil and opened the scoring on home soil vs. Portugal.
The 16-year-old scored the first goal in club history for USL Championship side Loudon United FC this spring and achieved a dream when he signed a Homegrown contract with D.C. United just three days later. Yow has rode a rapid rise to the U.S. roster for the 2019 Concacaf U-17 Championship where he will aim to help the red, white and blue qualify for a record 17th FIFA U-17 World Cup.
“Getting called up to the National Team was a dream come true for me,” Yow said. “I just wanted to get out there and show that I deserved the call-up. To perform on this stage against teams that are World Cup contenders was huge for me and my confidence.”
Soccer runs through the Yow family. His mother earned All-American honors and made the College Cup Final at NC State, while both of his older siblings played collegiately. Griffin joined the U.S. Soccer Development Academy for the 2016-17 season with nearby Virginia Development Academy. The forward tore it up during his first season with the U-14 team as he netted 19 goals in 25 games. His torrid scoring pace caught the attention of D.C. United, and he joined the youth set-up of his hometown M.L.S. club midway through the 2017-18 season.
“The environment is big time,” Yow said. “Training and being able to play with the first team, being under the pressure of being in a MLS academy really set it apart. There’s more pressure and it makes you perform.”
At D.C., Yow continued to light up the scoresheet with 14 goals in 30 games for the U-16/17 squad. The opportunity to train with United’s first team became even more of a surreal experience when a new player joined D.C. over the summer- England legend Wayne Rooney.
“The first time I met him was crazy because you’re like ‘Wow, I’m actually talking to you,’” Yow said. “As soon as you start to play with him a little bit more, you realize he’s a soccer player just like me and we’re all just here to play.”
Rooney serves as just one role model for Yow with United. U-17 alum Chris Durkin broke through with the first team last year after he played a key role with the U.S. squad that made the quarterfinals of the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.
“It’s perfect because you have guys like Rooney who can give you that experience of playing in the Premier League and Champions League and you also have guys like Durkin who are just going into it,” Yow said. “They can give you that advice of ‘Stay strong, keep going, keep grinding,’ because they’ve been through it, they were just through it.”
Yow began to make his own in-roads with the current U-17 MNT at the U-17 International Youth Tournament in England last October. He made his first start for the USA in its opener against the Three Lions and scored his first international goal in the 17th minute. When faced with a 2-0 deficit in the second game against Brazil, Yow sparked a 3-2 comeback victory with the USA’s first goal in the 30th minute.
He scored another significant goal on home turf at the annual Nike International Friendlies. The USA faced Portugal in the tournament opener and Yow pounced on a Portuguese miscue late in the first half to put the USA up 1-0.
“I think the trip to England and Nike Friendlies kind of got me into the squad, got me a bit more comfortable with everyone,” Yow said. “Knowing all the guys who have come through Nike Friendlies, it was an amazing feeling to get that goal.”
This spring brought a perfect opportunity for Yow to continue his forward momentum. It marked the start of play for Loudon United, launched to serve as D.C.’s reserve team in the USL Championship, in part to give more opportunities to the club’s young players. Yow played in its first-ever game, then earned his first professional start in its second. In the 30th minute, the young forward tallied the first goal in club history on a long-range looping effort. Three days later, Yow signed as a Homegrown player for D.C. United.
Yow made his M.L.S. debut with a cameo appearance against New York City FC on April 21, a few days before he joined the U-17 MNT in Florida for the 2019 Concacaf U-17 Championship. He’s played in both games for the USA so far at the competition, and his scrappy style should lend itself to goals as the team navigates the rigors of the regional tournament. As Yow continues to progress for club and country, the competition comes as another important step.
“You want to perform and play pretty soccer but being able to dig out hard results against teams, that’s what it’s all about,” Yow said. “That’s what the U.S. is all about, just fighting, working and never giving up. 2018 was a great year, but I know 2019 will be even better for U.S. Soccer.”