Debin and Amber Cowell always stressed the importance of working hard and remaining humble as son Cade pursued his dream of becoming a professional soccer player.
Their devotion and unwavering support, along with Cade’s laser focus, dedication and God-given talent led to a historical achievement on Jan. 23, 2019.
Cowell inked a five-year contract with Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes at the age of 15.
“Without them, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now,” the Ceres native said.
“We sacrificed our whole lives,” Debin said. “We never do anything as husband and wife because everything revolves around our kids. We’ve had to work two jobs at a time. The money (to pay for sports) adds up quick. We don’t live lavishly. We don’t have a big house or expensive cars. We’re trying to set all of our kids up to be successful. We want them to be good people and work hard even in school.”
Cowell became the youngest player signing in Earthquakes and Bay Area team sports history.
Three years earlier, Cowell was rooting for MLS all-time leading scorer Chris Wondolowski and San Jose from the stands at Earthquakes Stadium.
Cowell graduated from Cesar Chavez Jr. High in June of 2018.
“People think I’m crazy,” Debin said. “I saw this coming when he was a kid. He was different. When he’s on the field, he flips the switch. He’s the ultimate competitor. To get to the highest level of sports, you have to be like that.”
“I think the most challenging thing I’ve had to face is that playing soccer is my life now, it’s my job,” Cade stated during a March interview with SJEarthquakes.com. “It’s pretty cool though. All my friends and family are so supportive of me. They always know that I can’t do things with them because I’m playing soccer. Everybody respects that about me when I go back home, and I think that’s awesome that they’ve been so supportive.”
Cowell, who turned 16 last October, has appeared in five games for San Jose this season. He’s started twice.
“I’ve been working really hard,” said Cade, a 5-foot-11 166-pound winger/forward. “Every single day, I try to get better. I’ve really improved my technical skills. That’s the biggest thing. I’m also playing with a lot more confidence.”
Cowell entered the record books on Aug. 29 by becoming the youngest player to start and score in team history in the Earthquakes’ 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in Carson.
He also became the eighth-youngest goalscorer in MLS history.
Cowell gave San Jose a 2-1 lead in the 59th minute of the California Classico.
He fired an 18-yard shot past Los Angeles goalie David Bingham and into the bottom right corner of the goal.
“It was definitely an awesome feeling to score in my first start because I’ve been working hard this season,” Cowell said.
“It’s just one goal, one start,” he added. “I have a lot more to prove in the rest of my career.”
“It was a brilliant performance,” NBC Sports Bay Area commentator Chris Dangerfield stated.
When asked why he started Cowell and rookie defender Tanner Beason for the first time, Earthquakes’ head coach Matias Almeyda said: “Thinking about next year, I want things to be very clear when I decide who I can count on and who I will stop counting on. And these two young players, who have been training well, who have been playing well, I thought it was time to give them playing time to start developing them for the future.”
Cowell has drawn more media attention since the restart of the 2020 MLS season, which was postponed for four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m definitely having a great time out there. When I step on the field, all my nerves go away.”Cade Cowell
“It’s definitely an awesome, crazy life,” said Cowell, who’s filling a bigger role on the team during his second year with the Earthquakes. “I’m definitely having a great time out there. When I step on the field, all my nerves go away.”
“He’s 100 percent focused on the season and helping his team win,” Debin said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Cowell signed with the Wasserman agency, which represents over 1,500 athletes, broadcasters, coaches and influencers, in August.
Clients include Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson, Giancarlo Stanton, Nolan Arenado, Javier Baez, Yu Darvish, Sue Bird, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe.
“It’s the best opportunity for him right now,” Debin said. “They’re a big-name company. They have connections. They’ve talked to a few companies about endorsement deals. Hopefully, it comes to fruition in a year.”
Topps released an exclusive trading card of Cowell on its website following his record-setting performance against the Galaxy.
“I had no idea,” Debin said. “That’s pretty cool. I’m definitely going to order a bunch of them. I’m going to send some to family, friends and fans.”
Cowell also has a card in the 2020 Bowman MLS set.
“It’s crazy to have my own card now,” Cade said. “I used to collect football cards. I still have the binder.”
Cowell has also started to receive fan mail at his parents’ house and Earthquakes Stadium.
“It’s an awesome feeling people think of me in that way,” he said. “I’m just a couple years older than some of them. I’m going to try to reach out to fans when I have a break.”
“I don’t know where they’re getting our address,” Debin added. “People are asking for pictures and autographs. Cade knows how important it is to give back to the community.”
Cowell spent close to six weeks in Florida when he played for the Earthquakes at the MLS is Back Tournament, staged July 8 to Aug. 11 in Orlando.
He contributed off the bench in two of five matches as San Jose compiled a 3-1-1 record on its way to a top-eight finish at the 24-team tournament.
The Earthquakes lost 4-1 to Minnesota United FC in the quarterfinals on Aug. 1 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Cowell brought some much-needed energy to the field during San Jose’s 5-2 triumph over Real Salt Lake in the Round of 16 Knockout Stage on July 27.
The Earthquakes were clinging to a 3-2 lead when Cowell entered the match with less than 10 minutes to play. His pressure from the left side of the pitch led to San Jose’s fourth goal, which was scored by Wondolowski in the 86th minute.
Cowell and the Earthquakes placed first in Group B of the MLS is Back Tournament.
San Jose collected two wins and one draw.
The Earthquakes shut out Chicago Fire FC 2-0 on July 19 and stormed back for a 4-3 win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on July 15.
Cowell made his second MLS appearance when he entered the match as substitute late in the second half during the Earthquakes’ 0-0 tie versus 2019 league champion Seattle Sounders FC on July 10.
The MLS is Back Tournament marked the restart of the MLS season.
Cowell made his MLS debut on March 8.
At 16 years and 150 days old, Cade became the youngest player in club history—fifth youngest in league history—to make an appearance in a league game.
Cowell contributed at forward in the second half of the Earthquakes’ 5-2 home loss to Minnesota United FC.
He’s earned the trust of his head coach and teammates.
“Shea Salinas has been helping me, coaching me, staying with me after practice and working on left-footed crosses,” Cowell said. “Wondo (Wondoloswki) is always super inspirational, always giving me confidence, hyping me up. I love that about Wondo. Playing next to Nick (Lima) because he’s right behind me at left back, he’s always super supportive, coaching me on and off the field. Everyone has been awesome. Those are the three players that mainly stick out.”
“When Cade was 7 or 8, he was going to Quakes games looking up to Wondo,” Debin added.
Cowell was named one of MLS’s top 50 prospects for the 2019 campaign.
He didn’t play in any regular-season league matches.
Cowell scored a goal during San Jose’s 2-1 home loss to Liga MX club Monterrey in international-friendly action.
He made his pro debut in the Earthquakes’ 1-1 tie against Pioneros de Cancun in preseason play in Mexico.
“The first year was a shock factor,” Debin said. “He’s still so young.”
“It was a good learning experience,” Cade added.
Cowell’s journey to the professional ranks had some bumps in the road.
He was slowed by Osgood-Schlatter’s disease, a knee ailment, when he was a kid.
“He had growing pains for two years,” Debin said. “He had to take time off. We saw specialists. Nothing worked until he stopped growing.”
Cowell was sidelined for a month and a half after suffering a stress fracture in his back while playing flag football in the eighth grade at Cesar Chavez Jr High.
He also didn’t receive invites to a pair of U.S. Youth National Team training camps.
Cowell was planning to attend Central Catholic High School in Modesto prior to joining the San Jose Earthquakes in-house youth development program in 2018.
“We had already filled out the paperwork and paid the fees,” Debin said. “He was enrolled. God had other plans for him.”
“I was going to give up soccer and play football,” Cade said. “I didn’t because my Ballistic United coach (Andrew Ziemer) talked me out of it. He made me rethink my answer.”
Cade led the nation with 34 goals in 32 appearances for the Ballistic United under-15 team during the 2017-18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season.
Cowell tallied a goal while making his United States National Team debut at the under-16 level in September of 2018. He was then promoted to the U.S. U-17s for the Nike International Friendlies later in the month, where he appeared in all three matches and scored against Chile.
A five-star prospect, Cade climbed to No. 1 in Top Drawer Soccer’s national player rankings for the class of 2022.
Cowell started playing soccer at the age of four under his grandfather Ed’s tutelage.
He spent two seasons in the Ceres Youth Soccer Organization recreational league. Cowell played 71/2 years of competitive soccer, including two with the Ceres Earthquakes FC, three with the Modesto Ajax, and most recently, 21/2 with the Ballistic United (Pleasanton).
When Cade visits his parents and siblings (Chance and Cylee) in Ceres, they don’t spend a lot of time talking about soccer. They focus on being a family.
“He has so much on his plate,” Debin said. “When he comes home, he gets to see his buddies and do normal kid stuff. He still has to clean his room. He doesn’t get any special treatment.”
“I try to come home whenever I get a day off,” Cade said. “I haven’t had a day off in three weeks.”
“Debo and Amber have done a heck of a job raising Cade and their two other kids,” longtime friend/fellow 1999 Ceres High School grad Brian de la Porte said. “There’s no pressure. Whatever they want to do, they’re going to support and guide them. They’re never overbearing. You don’t find that from parents these days.”
Debin and Amber believed their son Cade was destined for athletic greatness at an early age.
They didn’t expect him to become a pro athlete during his teenage years.
“I really don’t see myself as 16,” said Cade, who pointed out he was 14 when he moved away from home to join the San Jose Earthquakes youth program. “My teammates are super supportive. They treat me like a brother. The confidence he (coach Almeyda) gives me makes me play so calm when I’m on the field.”
“I thought he’d get to this point,” Debin said. “But I thought it would be later in life. The quickness is what shocked everybody the most. Two years ago, we were making arrangements for him to go to college. He’s maturing as a person and player. He doesn’t brag on himself. He’s really humble and down to earth. He’s just a good kid. That’s what I’m most proud of.”