Cade Cowell and his classmates at the Ceres Christian Preschool graduation ceremony were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up.
“He held up a sign when he was four years old saying he wanted to be a pro soccer player,” father Debin said. “I think about it now and laugh because that’s so Cade. It’s always been the dream he had.”
Cowell, a 5-foot-9 154-pound forward, inked a five-year contract with the San Jose Earthquakes on Jan. 18.
The Ceres native became the youngest player signing in Earthquakes and Bay Area team sports history.
“Honestly, it’s crazy that I signed a pro contract this early. I sometimes have to keep reminding myself that. I’m very excited to start my pro career and I’m looking forward to it.”Cade Cowell
“Honestly, it’s crazy that I signed a pro contract this early,” said Cade, who turned 15 on Oct. 14. “I sometimes have to keep reminding myself that. I’m very excited to start my pro career and I’m looking forward to it.”
The Major League Soccer club made the official announcement on Jan. 23.
“Cade has a bright future ahead of him and it is up to him how far he will go,” Earthquakes head coach Matias Almeyda said. “He adds to what I believe is a very talented group of young players here in San Jose and we’re anxious to see him develop with us.”
Cowell and his Earthquakes teammates left for Mexico last Thursday to train for three weeks in Cancun.
San Jose’s preseason training schedule will consist of 32 practice sessions in a 17-day span.
They will also train for a week in Reno and Los Angeles.
“I was always a Quakes fan and went to many games,” Cowell said. “It’s just so crazy to now be on the actual team and now playing with Wondo (San Jose all-time leading scorer Chris Wondolowski) instead of cheering for him.”
“Cade is a gifted striker that is well ahead of his age in terms of athletic ability, talent and work ethic,” Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli said. “Within six months of arriving at our club, he joined the U.S. Youth National Team program and was soon after promoted an age group higher. Together with his family, we came to an agreement on a five-year contract with the understanding that we are at the beginning of a long-term partnership in an effort to support Cade’s success in life one step and one training at a time. He’ll be joining the first team immediately and will continue to follow an individualized development program with gradual targets to help him reach his goals on and off the field.”
Cowell came close to taking a very different path prior to joining the Earthquakes in-house youth development program this past year.
“He was going to go to Central Catholic High School,” Debin said. “We had already filled out the paperwork and paid the fees. He was enrolled. God had other plans for him.”
Cowell scored three goals in eight appearances for the Quakes Academy U-17s. He also played for the U-19s, competing against players up to three years his senior.
In September, Cowell earned a call-up to the U.S. U-16s, tallying a goal in his national team debut. 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.
Cade is rated as a five-star prospect by TopDrawerSoccer and is ranked as the No. 2 player in the nation for the Class of 2022.
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.
“He’s just so driven,” Debin said. “Even though there were setbacks, he didn’t let them stop him.”
Cowell started playing soccer at the age of four under his grandfather Ed’s guidance.
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).
He led the nation with 34 goals in 32 appearances for the Ballistic United U-15s during the 2017-18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season.
“I’ve known since he was able to walk he was different,” Debin said. “By the time he started playing rec, he looked like had had been playing for years. He didn’t play like a normal four year old. He’s always had a blue-collar mentality. He’s never satisfied. He’s a grinder.”
A video of Cowell’s signing day was posted on the Earthquakes’ website.
Cade posed for pictures with his parents Debin and Amber, brother Chance, and sister Cylee.
“It was emotional,” Debin said. “There were a lot of tears in the room. It’s crazy when you think about it. This happens to less than one percent of all soccer players.”
“I made a lot of sacrifices,” Cade stated. “A lot of times I wanted to go out with friends or girlfriend but couldn’t because I had to go train. A lot of days, I just wasn’t feeling it and I was tired. But I had to just remind myself that it will pay off.”
“I’m just happy for him,” Debin added. “His dream came true. It’s still shocking.”