13-year-old Axel Kei makes history for Real Salt Lake's USL team

The prolific Real Salt Lake youth system could be about to produce another talent.
The prolific Real Salt Lake youth system could be about to produce another talent. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake academy forward Axel Kei made history on Friday as the youngest-ever player to make a professional appearance for an American sports team.

Aged just 13 years, nine months and nine days old, Kei entered the field in the 61st minute of Real Monarchs' (RSL's USL affiliate) 0-0 draw with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, replacing United States international striker Bobby Wood. A crowd just shy of 1,500 was in attendance for this historic moment.

Despite his tender age, Kei isn't quite the youngest-ever footballer. That honour remains with Bolivian midfielder Mauricio Baldivieso, who was brought on as a late substitute by his father for Aurora in 2009, just a few days shy of his 13th birthday. Now 25, Baldivieso retired from playing in 2018.

Though it was an understandably quiet 30 minutes on the pitch, Kei did get a half-chance to grab a winner for the Monarchs, but a Colorado defender was able to clear the Milan Iloski cross that was destined for him.

Kei has been making waves at youth level for some time now, grabbing the Golden Boot in last summer's MLS NEXT Cup playoffs with five goals. RSL beat the Philadelphia Union 2-0 in the final to win the U-15 title.

First-team regulars David Ochoa, Aaron Herrera and Justen Glad are all products of RSL's prolific youth system, which has also played a hand in the development of the likes of Carlos Salcedo, Corey Baird and Brooks Lennon over the years.

Freddy Adu is currently the youngest-ever player to sign an MLS contract, joining DC United in 2004 aged just 14 years and 168 days. If Kei continues his current trajectory, there's every chance he'll beat that longstanding record.

The Monarchs are currently bottom of the USL Championship Western Conference Mountain table, 20 points adrift of RGV Toros above them.