He was an American prodigy. The next Pelé. The savior of U.S. soccer. But he wasn't even old enough to drive. In 2004, Freddy Adu joined MLS at 14 years old, becoming the youngest American pro team sport athlete in 100 years. His story is a tale of talent, money, fame and fútbol. Journalist Grant Wahl, who covered Freddy and LeBron James in their teens, retraces the legend of Freddy as he went from superstar to one of the biggest "what ifs," asking: What determines who "makes it" and who "doesn't"? And what does it say about our cultural obsession with the potential of young athletic genius?
BONUS: The Breakdown
Grant sits down with producer Harry Swartout and goes behind the scenes of the making of American Prodigy: Freddy Adu. What did it take to get the interviews done in a pandemic? Did Freddy’s penchant for trash talk ever land him in trouble? What really went down between Grant and Jaleel White at the MLS Cup? Grant tells all and plays quality audio we just didn’t have time for in the story.
Part 7: The Return
While this podcast was being made, 31-year-old Freddy signed with Swedish third-division club Österlen, his first pro club in two years. Playing now for the love of the game, Freddy discusses his unexpected opportunity and what he has learned from being an American Prodigy. Is this the beginning of a great comeback? Or are we letting unreasonably high expectations get ahead of Freddy once again?
Part 6: Freddy’s Legacy
It’s been two years since Freddy played competitive soccer, but at age 31 he’s still trying to make a comeback, even as he teaches the next generation. Today is a new world in American soccer, where the best prospects leave for Europe and developmental academies stateside grow to provide support for America’s next prodigy. What happens to the next Freddy Adu? Are we ready for the next American Prodigy? Are they already here? Grant Wahl examines.
Part 5: All Falls Down
After a championship-winning rookie season, anything seemed possible for Freddy. Yet over the next 14 years, Freddy would play for more than a dozen teams in MLS, Europe, South America and the USL, slowly turning from an American Prodigy into a cautionary tale. Short flashes of success in summer tournaments provided flickering glimpses of hope that Freddy would gain traction and turn into a superstar. But Adu could never establish consistency at the club level. Grant Wahl watched Freddy struggle to build momentum in his career as it faded away. What went wrong? Brought to you by Fanatiz. https://bit.ly/3lqi7Oj
Part 4: Smile
Freddy Adu had a million dollar smile. He flashed it on the field when he beat defenders twice his age. He showed it for the media when he gave interviews and posed for photographs. And he turned it on as D.C. United got hot down the stretch and made a push for the 2004 MLS Cup. But Grant Wahl noticed that as Freddy’s rookie season wore on, the 15-year-old's smile began to fade. Was the pressure that Freddy felt finally getting to him? Brought to you by Fanatiz. https://bit.ly/3lqi7Oj
Part 3: Young and Black in America
Not even Freddy was ready for the passionate response to him from Black Americans, many of whom had rarely engaged with MLS or soccer before. American soccer has long been a country-club sport—largely white and upper-middle-class—but Freddy's race, potential and extreme youth helped make him a cultural touchstone who transcended sports. They also left him virtually alone in locker rooms full of white men old enough to be his father. Grant Wahl saw a teenager constantly surrounded by media, teammates and fans, but was he really connecting with any of them?
Customer ReviewsSee All
Binged in one care ride
Listened to the entire season on Freddy Adu in one road trip. I can’t wait for him to cover more athletes!
Thorough & Well-Told
Really love that Grant, even with Freddy’s interview in the can, still relies on a wide array of formed teammates, coaches and reps to help tell the story.
Other podcasts might be better produced/mixed, but it’s still very solid with great storytelling. Great job Grant!
With so many moves in Adu’s career, it was difficult even for avid fans to follow - or to understand what may have happened that prevented him from becoming the player many hoped he’d become. Grant does an excellent job of laying out the story, including essential input from Freddy himself.