Sandy • The next big thing is about to get his next big shot.
As a child, Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil had youth trials with Arsenal in London and River Plate in Argentina. His skills drew interest from Manchester City and Real Madrid.
» The four-year Major League Soccer veteran is 19 years old.
» The midfielder has played in 14 games this season for RSL, scoring two goals and notching one assist.
» He will be the most experienced pro on the U.S. team in the U-20 World Cup.
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But in the end, Gil chose Major League Soccer and found a home with Real Salt Lake.
"A lot of people want to go to England, but I didn’t feel like it was the right time," Gil said of a decision he does not regret.
Now, as he prepares to head out with the United States for the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey this month, Gil and RSL’s front office executives know another opportunity awaits.
RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey called the tournament "the biggest stage in the world" for young talent, and there will be plenty of potential buyers in wait.
"I think we’ve been prepared for it for a number of years," Lagerwey said. "The last time the organization sold a player ... it was Freddy Adu, a month after the Under-20 World Cup. So there’s precedent."
Adu’s play in the 2007 tournament turned into a $2 million transfer fee that sent him off to Benfica of Portugal. RSL officials have already discussed how they might handle a similar situation, should offers come in for Gil after this year’s tournament.
"Since we signed Luis at 16 years old, we didn’t think he’d be playing for us for the next 16 years," Lagerwey said. "We hope so. But if he wants to go to bigger and better things, and people offer millions of dollars we’ll all work together and find a good solution."
For now, the 19-year-old Gil’s attention is on club and country.
But the dream of Europe is still there.
"Definitely," he said. "But I’m focused here right now. Real Salt Lake has made me the player I am, so I’m just taking everything I’ve learned from this team and using it playing with the U-20s."
Gil was a critical piece of the team’s qualifying efforts. He scored on a penalty kick to beat Haiti and assisted on a goal against Costa Rica. In the quarterfinals of the tournament, Gil scored and notched an assist to help give the U.S. a berth in the tournament.
In the World Cup, the U.S. will have its hands full with a difficult group featuring France, Ghana and Spain.
"I feels sorry for those teams," Gil said when asked about the challenge ahead. "They have to play us."
Lagerwey, for one, will be cheering for Gil when play begins June 21.
"At the end of the day, we’ll have Luis go play and hope he does well," the general manager said. "We’ll be rooting for him and hoping that, at the end, we’ll all have options."
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