The Swope Park Rangers have signed two Sporting Kansas City Academy players to USL contracts. Felipe Hernandez and Will Little were both on the roster last season with Academy contracts but have now signed full professional contracts.
"Felipe and Will are two very talented players that are part of a group of Academy players that we are going to give a chance to this season," Swope Park Rangers head coach Nikola Popovic said via press release. "Felipe is a dynamic midfielder with good vision, with the capacity to contribute in the final third. Will is a player who can explore the right channel with speed and he's a player with a very good mentality that can be used in several positions on the wing."
"I'm very pleased to have signed my first professional contract with the Swope Park Rangers," Hernandez said in the press release. "It's always been an honor being a part of this organization and I'm very thankful for having the opportunity to stay here in Kansas City. I'd like to thank God, my family, my coaches and the whole Sporting KC organization for giving me this opportunity."
Hernandez, 18, is a creative midfielder that is adept at connecting with his team mates and threading passes into dangerous positions. That ability has earned him call-ups to U.S. U-19 National Team camps and played in the Stevan Vilotic-Cele tournament in Subotica, Serbia.
"I am very excited to be starting my professional career with the Swope Park Rangers," Little said in the press release. "I'm beyond blessed to be a part of this organization and I'd like to thank all my family, friends and coaches who have supported me and been by my side through it all."
Little signed an Academy contract with the Rangers last year as well and made nine appearances as a sub for Swope Park. The 18-year-old midfielder was an offensive threat whenever he stepped on the field.
split time while splitting time helping the is also a Tennessee native, relocating from Johnson City to Kansas City in January 2015 after being identified by Sporting Nashville Heroes. The 18-year-old signed an Academylast seas contract with the Rangers prior to the start of the 2016 season and went on to make nine total appearances for SPR after making his professional debut on his 18th birthday against San Antonio FC on April 9.
Since the start of the 2015-16 season, Little has scored 13 goals in 34 games for the U-18s, including three strikes in 11 appearances so far in the 2016-17 season. The winger played a key role in the U-18s' run to the USSDA Playoff Quarterfinals over the summer, starting all four games and scoring twice in the group stage.
Sporting Club Network paying off
The signing of Hernandez and Little are an important step for Sporting KC. Both playerscame to the Sporting KC Academy from Sporting Nashville Heroes and are the first plyers to sign from an Academy Affiliate.
In order to compete with larger metro areas, Sporting KC formed affiliates around the Midwest to identify talent and funnel them into the Academy and this is the first occurrences of that player pipeline reaching the professional level.