Yukoner Joe Hanson has become the first northerner to sign a Major League Soccer contract.
On March 7, Hanson signed on with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC2, a team set to play in the new MLS Next Pro League, Sport Yukon said in a press release on its website.
“I’m still kind of wrapping my head around it,” the 18-year-old striker stated in the press release.
The league, set to launch with 21 teams - later this month, is a professional league with teams throughout Canada and the United States. Of the teams, 20 are affiliated with MLS Clubs. The exception is the independent Rochester New York FC team.
Hanson has been part of the Whitecaps Academy since he was 15 and has been training with the U23 team since May 2021. He sees joining the Whitecaps FC2 as a step towards his ultimate goal of making the Whitecaps first team.
“It’s a big step for me to sign a professional contract and become a professional now because it’s a whole different world,” Hanson said. “Compared to youth and amateur soccer, I’m still getting used to it a little bit.”
Joining him on the field will be a number of others he was playing with on the U23 team.
“So now it’s a pro team, we’ve brought in more players and I’ve been able to stick with the team and become a professional,” he said.
Hanson said the quality and speed of the game is much faster at the professional level.
“There’s no room for error,” Hanson in the statement. “Everything you touch, pass, shoot, you know it has to be close to, if not perfect. If you mess up, you may not get the ball for another two or three minutes because the other team is just as good.”
Hanson praised the territory’s soccer community, noting that making it to the Whitecaps FC2 wouldn’t have been possible without past players and coaches who worked to enhance the soccer environment in the Yukon.
“They gave me and other players opportunities to play from a young age,” Hanson said, adding his hope his success will show other young Yukon soccer players that they can make it to the professional level.
“The first thing I thought of, one of the reasons I wanted to sign the contract, was to break down that door and create a pathway for younger players that will follow me and they can achieve their dreams of playing pro,” he said in the press release.
“I hope it inspires them to follow their dreams to play professional soccer because now they can see it,” he said.
The Whitecaps FC2 team will begin their regular season on March 26 in Houston, Texas against the Houston Dynamo 2.
“The team, we have a few older players,” Hanson said. “Before we started bringing them in, we were a young team and it showed. To have some more experienced players coming in to share a bit of knowledge has been helpful.”
Hanson believes he will see regular minutes on the field, it was noted.
“I think I should be a regular player on this squad,” said Hanson. “I’ve been proving myself the last few months and been playing well enough that I should be on the field lots.”
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org