Cade Cowell will make a life-changing decision in the coming months.
The Sam Vaughn School sixth-grader plans to sign with a professional academy for youth soccer players.
"It's going to be a big commitment," said Cade, 12. "I'm looking forward to it. I'm really excited. It's going to be cool practicing that much. Soccer has always been my favorite sport. I love the game."
Cowell has been offered full tuition to the following three academies: San Jose Earthquakes, Ballistic of Pleasanton and Sacramento Republic.
He will be required to train four times a week in the Bay Area once he joins one of them.
"Once he signs with the academy, they'll own his rights," said Debin Cowell, Cade's father. "He can't play other sports. They're trying to grab the best talent they can. You get a scholarship to attend the academy for free. It's really intense. They're grooming you for the college and professional ranks. If this is what he wants to do, this is the right step for his future. He'll be trained by professional coaches. He's growing out of what I can teach him. He wants to be challenged and pushed more."
Cade represented California-North at the Olympic Development Program Region-IV Championships, Jan. 17-10, in Arizona.
Cowell, a team captain and attacking midfielder, collected two goals and six assists while leading his under-13 squad to a second-place finish (3-1).
"It was a really cool experience," Cade said. "I had a lot of fun."
"He played every second of the tournament," Debin said. "He never got subbed out."
About 300 kids tried out for the California-North team.
The travel roster was cut down to 18 players.
Cade earned a spot on the team thanks to his versatility.
"He really can play any position on the field," Debin said.
"I just started playing the position (attacking midfielder)," said Cade, who had a knack for scoring goals in bunches while starring at striker. "I enjoy giving assists to people."
Cowell started playing the sport at the age of five when his parents signed him up with Ceres Youth Soccer Organization.
Cade played just one season in the recreational league before joining the ultra-competitive ranks.
He's played travel soccer for the past six-plus years, including five with the Modesto Ajax and one-and-a-half with the Ceres Earthquakes.
Cade won under-9 and under-10 State Cup titles with hometown teams.
"The first time we ever saw him play, we had to take him out at halftime," Debin said. "Parents were getting so mad because he was scoring so many goals. He was born to play soccer. He's always had a passion for the game. It came so natural to him. He can play anywhere on the field. That's his biggest strength."
Cade stopped playing baseball for the Ceres Blaze last year to focus solely on soccer.
He trains 15 hours a week.
He started working out on Wednesdays at Bonsu Elite Athletics two months ago.
He also works on his craft with assistance from his father.
"Everybody sees the final result when they watch him play," Debin said. "He puts in so much work. He's always trying to get better. I've seen a lot of growth in him the past year. He takes it very serious. He's so humble. He's such a team guy. That's what makes him so special."
"It does get tiring," Cade said. "But all the famous players don't quit. They practice every day. I enjoy working hard. I've changed quite a bit. I can shoot with both of my feet. I don't rely on my speed as much. I still need to work on my dribbling."
Cade's parents were both standout athletes at Ceres High School.
Debin earned seven varsity letters, including four in baseball and three in football.
He played receiver at San Jose State for one season.
Amber earned six varsity letters, including four in softball and two in basketball.
"Amber and I have been together since we were sophomores in high school," Debin said. "We always kept our priorities first. We took sports very serious. We're trying to give Cade every opportunity to be successful. Both of us try to keep him grounded. We take turns driving him to the Bay Area for practice. If he doesn't get good grades, he doesn't get to play."
Cade knows he must make sacrifices to achieve his dreams.
"I do my homework in class during recess or in the car during the rides to practice," Cade said. "It's going to be tough once I get to high school. I wanted to play football. But I want to go to Cal Berkeley for soccer. I watched them play and they were really good. Plus, it's close to home."
"It's been really fun to watch him evolve as a player," Debin said. "He's super talented. The sky's the limit if he stays humble. The work ethic is what's important. He doesn't have a lot of free time. He comes home from school and does his homework. Then it's off to practice. He wants to play soccer for a living. That's all he talks about."