U.S. Youth National Teams

U.S. U-18 forward Novakovich signs with Reading

Reading's Danny Guthrie celebrates scoring his sides second goal with team-mates

Photo by ISIPhotos.com


A member of the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team has decided to bypass college to play in England.

Midfielder Andrija Novakovich has signed his first professional contract with Reading FC, joining the English Championship club following a two-week trial last month. The 17-year-old Wisconsin native had signed a letter of intent to play for Marquette University next year but passed it up after being offered a contract to join Reading’s academy.

Novakovich, who was noticed by U.S. Soccer after playing for U.S. Developmental Academy club team Chicago Magic PSG, has represented the U.S. Under-17s and U-18s on a number of occasions in the last 12 months. Novakovich featured for the U-17s in Niigata International Tournament in Japan in July 2013 before moving up to the U-18s for the 2013 Milk Cup and Limoges Tournament.

Novakovich will join fellow American Danny Williams when he arrives at Reading.

Last February, U.S. U-18 head coach Javier Perez included Novakovich in his squad for the Copa Del Atlantico, and following the tournament, Novakovich went on a trial with Fulham before going on trial with Reading.

Novakovich’s move to England was expedited because his mother was born in England while his father was born in a part of Yugoslavia that is now in Serbia. Novakovich graduated from high school early as well.

Novakovich isn’t the only U-18 player set to move to Europe. According to Dembakwi Yomba’s official Twitter profile, the 17-year-old Georgia native has agreed terms with Atletico Madrid.

The deal has yet to be confirmed by the Atletico madrid and Yomba likely can’t officially join the club until he turns 18 years old due to FIFA transfer rules.

Yomba most recently played for the U-18s at the Copa Del Atlantico along with Novakovich and is a former member of the U.S. U-17s. Yomba is a product of the Georgia-based club Concorde Fire.


What do you think of this news? Glad to see another American prospect head to Europe? Think he has a chance of eventually breaking into the first team? Worried about losing him to England’s or Serbia’s youth national programs?

Share your thoughts below.

  • hm

    so they will be playing in the Academy or with their reserve squad?

    also youth players, are they all payed equally? like say the maximum is 20,000 a year and minimum is 5,000 a year? I would figure that would be the case as they aren’t pros as of yet


    • James

      Someone else who knows more than me should chime in on this, but I was under the impression that since you can’t sign a contract until you’re 18, youth players aren’t paid at all (besides room, board, etc.)

      As for first question, I think the line between reserve squads and academies is pretty fluid. Some teams have “U21” teams that act as their reserve squad, but overage players can still play. So I think it’s more of a question of does he train with the first team or not.


      • The Imperative Voice

        Per the article, he can sign in England because he has an English parent and has enough nationality to where he’s not a foreign national signing before age 18 (Gyau, Renken). At that point it’s a sporting and financial rather than legal question. The article seems to say he signed a pro contract but will play for the academy, which suggests he is a modest prospect being signed for modest bucks to play age group soccer. They think enough to sign him pro and not just recruit him to the academy, but are not ticketing him for their first team, which is usually like 30 players deep.


    • Edwin in LA

      If they have a work permit it’s doable. But those kids are making 300-500K and that’s pounds or Euros at worst lol

      If they are under 18 they can still sign, just have to wait to play and join the pro team


      • dcpohl

        Hahaha this made me laugh on the quiet floor of the library.


      • tga

        i have a reading bobby convey autographed jersey….how much?


      • NASL to El Paso tx

        I take Bobby’s girl with an autograph ass :)


      • Michael Stypulkoski

        What? No, actually, never mind, I don’t think I want any further clarification.


  • TomG

    I have absolutely no clue whether Reading’s academy is any good. A typical Championship side does not play the type of soccer I would like our young players to learn. It’s an awful lot of, “Get stuck in!” With less emphasis on developing ball skills and playing good, attacking soccer. I heard this first hand from someone coming up through Wednesday’s academy, but who knows. Not all academies are the same. Maybe Reading is more progressive than most.


    • josh

      Reading is a fringe eel side. They can develop players just as well as anyone else and what is his alternative? Develop in college? This move is a no brained for a serious soccer player.


      • just Tom

        Reading is in the BPLs U21 Premiere League Cup final against Manchester City on 4/11


      • TomG

        I just hate the traditional English style of play. A poor Championship academy can definitely hurt a player’s development. I don’t know. How many good first division players has their academy produced? There are always options for good players.


    • GW

      Mr G.

      “It’s an awful lot of, “Get stuck in!” With less emphasis on developing ball skills and playing good, attacking soccer”

      How do you know that? You just said you “have absolutely no clue whether Reading’s academy is any good.”

      That means you don’t know much about Reading’s academy. In that case why dump all over it?


    • John

      Finally someone gets it.

      The English style of play is not good anymore for developing young talent. Countries like Argentina, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Germany, France, etc. are much better in this regard (that goes for both the academies and senior teams). Why can’t we send young Americans to some of these academies? They always end up in England. We need to stop trying to imitate the English if we want to advance as a soccer culture.


    • The Imperative Voice

      If it makes you feel better, I had the same thought, scrolled down not seeing it yet, and found you’d posted it before I could. So you have served the purpose.


  • John

    I grew up with Andrija and played with him. He is a phenomenal player and will be in their first team in no time. He has signed with the Academy for a 1 year deal and will go from there. He is an absolute freak when he plays and has stood out for the US National team and knowing him, he will stick with the US team and continue playing for them


  • michael f. sbi mafia original

    I love seeing young players taking their chances overseas. It really shows you the courage and passion they have for the game. I hope it works out well for both of them.


  • John Lowe

    Happy for the young man. The more player we have in academy’s the better. The US academy’s are starting to produce quality players as well.


  • Mike R

    Awesome ! He can join the ranks of Stephan Jerome , Gyau , Renken, pelosi and that kid from Liverpool who went to Europe and tore it up!!!


    • Nick4235

      Actually Pelosi had been playing well before his injury and was on Liverpools Europa League roster. And the European acedemy systems have worked out pretty well for Packwood, Williams, Jones, Fabian, Brooks and most of the best players in the world so I’m not sure why you seem to think this is a bad move.


    • GW

      Mike R,

      Putting this in American terms, these kids are going to the minor leagues for development.
      Most of the players in the minors are not going to make the majors.
      You listed 5 players. If none of them made it to the first team that would hardly be surprising


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