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A closer look at the Johnny Exantus “deal”


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As you may have read elsewhere on Tuesday, there is a Belgian soccer team claiming to have signed New York Red Bulls youth prospect Johnny Exantus (left in photo). Just how legitimate a claim that is remains very unclear.

While the signing was announced by Real Racing Club of Montegnee on Sept. 2, Exantus is currently attending Columbia High School in New Jersey and has been playing for the school’s soccer team. He has scored in each of the team’s first two games.

Not only that. There is also some question about the professional or amateur status of the club in question, Real Racing Club, which plays in the Belgian Fourth Division. (The club calls itself a professional club, but claims that the program

So if a player signs with an amateur club, has he really signed a thing? More importantly, why would a player regarded as one of the top youth prospects in the nation sign with a fourth-division team in Belgium? And if he did sign, why is he still playing high school soccer in New Jersey?

While the Real Racing Club does appear to actually exist, there do seem to be some red flags regarding its legitimacy. Whether its the curious fact that the club is Belgian yet has an English-only website, or the fact that only two of the club’s many contacts have team-issued email addresses (the team’s sporting director has a yahoo email address listed on the team site), there is something just a tad bit fishy about the club’s description of itself (a professional club that sounds like a quasi-college set-up).

As much as the club’s status, and the listing of 15 American players on its squad list, make for some head-scratching, my focus right now is on Exantus and what exactly his status is (while the RRC website does describe the club as an academic and athletic experience, there is no description of what sort of professional ties or contracts are involved between players in the program and the club). Signing with a professional team would mean the Red Bulls would not be able to sign him this winter (which is a possibility if Exantus is not under contract elsewhere), and it would also make Exantus ineligible to play high school soccer in New Jersey (and would force his team to forfeit its first two wins).

That said, if Real Racing Club is not a professional team, then Exantus wouldn’t be bound by any contract, thus making the club’s announcement misleading. (Based on the wording on the club’s website, it suggests that taking part in the program does not jeopardize the player’s college eligibility, and therefore is not a true professional club. If that is true, then Exantus is not bound by any professional contract with Real Racing Club)

So what exactly happened? I am hoping to find that out today. A call to Columbia High School head coach Gene Chyzowych has yet to be returned. An email message to Exantus has also not been answered. Columbia is scheduled to play West Morris Central today at 4pm.

Red Bulls fans shouldn’t assume that Exantus will join the Red Bulls even if Exantus is not legally bound to a contract with Real Racing Club. Sources have told me for some time that Exantus wants to play in Europe. Whether that desire led to the desperation move of signing with a low-level Belgian club remains to be seen.

I will update this story as information comes in. For now, feel free to share your thoughts on this story in the comments section below.


  1. My son is one of the Americans at the Heidelberg Academic and Sporting Academy in the Belgian province of Liege. He arrived about six weeks ago and is experiencing the “time of his life” with school and soccer. He played in college stateside and is a product of an athletic “academy” which was affiliated with U.S. Club Soccer and the United Soccer Leagues.

    Everyone associated with the Heidelberg Academy and the Royal Racing Football Club – Montegnee’ have been both genuine and generous with their support and resources. In time, I believe the feedback will be “exceeds expectations” which my son has told me already.

    The advantage of this unique opportunity is its’ location in Europe. The area they live in which the town of Ans is beautiful, clean and a relaxed environment. They are living in new housing with all of the amenties we expect here in the States. The school and soccer facilities are combined and first rate. The professional coaching addresses the needs of all players including keepers which is typically missing here in the U.S. system of training our youth. The team is scheduled to played out of country matches against teams in similar and higher comparable Divisions.

    There is a French language version of the club web site ( and since there are many teams across the Walloon region of Belgium, I frequently visit this site to check on the results for the Liege province (

    The locals are very supportive of the team and many of them speak fluent English, French and some, Italian. The team “mascot” which is a rat is a symbol of the areas primary industry a few decades ago (mining). Rats inhabited the mines (as they do the sewers for those of us raised in the tri-State area of the Northeast; some of them were big enough to race against horses at Aquaduct and Belmont!).

    A local 1st Division team, Royal Standard Liege who are the current national champions, recently played EPL’s Everton so the geographic separation between Division’s is short which enhances the opportunity for player visibility.

    While I hope that our youth continue to strive for a spot on an MLS team, I have yet to find an equivalent/superior alternative for those athletes that aren’t scouted to play USL D2, D1 or the top professional level here at home.

  2. Aljarov:

    In years past the Developmental Contracts were just that, however the Senior Developmental K’s are exactly what I described..four options…17 for the first year, then min salary the following with slight increases each year.

    As for the minimum salary this year it is 30k…go look at the salaries on the MLSPA website…

    Ives can confirm this info.

  3. I just talked to one of my contacts that has a thorough understanding of the academy options here in the United States.

    He confirmed that this program is legitimate and the comparison to PSA in Cleveland and Bradenton were accurate. He said they are legitimate.

    The difference is it is a University program. Kudos to Heidelberg College for starting an interesting program like this. They obviously do not have to follow NCAA rules, so it makes a great alternative for athletes that want to be students.

    I am sure they can get good games with competition being in Belgian. Again, there are no restrictions. They can call a big club in Belgian, Netherlands, Germany and France and play a game against their reserves.

  4. I find it ridiculous that some people here see anything sketchy about this. It’s Belgium, for crying out loud. It’ll be a great experience for the kid, regardless of the soccer.

  5. What on Earth makes Johnny Exantus a “top prospect” anyway? I think you need to re-evaluate your definition of the term if you think so. Yes, he’s a talented young player who has a decent amount of potential but big European clubs are not knocking on his door daily nor will they be for quite some time, if ever. This isn’t Jozy Altidore we’re talking about. Why does the prospect of him playing for a Belgian 5th division club seem so insulting to many of you?

  6. That comment from Topping seems to pretty much wrap this up. It’s not a professional club. It doesn’t bar RB from signing him. But it does seem to indicate that he would prefer to get his EU passport and play in Europe. We will have to wait and see.

  7. This is a college program with the classes being taught in English. Students study a typical U.S. college curriculum – The Heidelberg director for the program in Belgium is Peter Farmer – a former olympian. This opportunity allows these American kids – some who signed a D-1 letter of intent and played in top of ODP program and attended ESP – to continue courses while working on a degree from an AMERICAN university, training everyday with some highly-regarded European coaches and with other committed players from other countries. Their parents are paying for this – giving their kids the opportunity to be seen by European coaches and have a shot at eventually playing professionally in Europe. More professional teams there than in U.S. The Good part – the student gets a shot at his dream, works on an American degree while playing and studying the game he loves much more intently than at any American University and without NCAA rules, experiences an entirely different part of the world where he is stepping out of his comfort zone and so far away from mom and dad that he is forced to mature quickly. After 3 years will have an Eu passport and if a professional contract doesn’t work out by tht time, he can either stay and work in Europe or come home and finish the degree in U.S. The only downside is the value of the Euro to the dollar for his “spending money”.

    There are lots of great soccer players in other parts of the U.S. although many of the posters on this forum have “never heard of them”.

  8. Supsam,

    Why did Matt Kassel go to Maryland? This is more or less the same thing. It’s a residential college with a competitive soccer program in the middle of Europe catering to english speakers.

  9. come on people, lets think this through shall we? Why would a top prospect sign with a 4th division Belgian club?? Im pretty sure he not an idiot. Shoot,I would make the same claim if it was a 2nd division belgian club.

    If the world is turned upside down and this retard did actually sign with them then man do i feel sorry for NYRB. Talk about a slap to the face. Leaving the club that helped bring you to the level you are at for what!??! a small small small club no ones heard of in a division no one outside belgium knows about. My condolences for red bull fans if it indeed true.

  10. at first i thought this was sketch, but the more I think about it i dig it. I think it might be similar to a prep school in the US. I say why not, earn some credits, go abroad, if it doesnt work out you can always go back to MLS or USL.

    Whats the worst he is gonna lose out on $12,900/$17,700??


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