In the course of scouring the US for the best soccer prospects, we couldn’t help but take notice of one young player who’s come across our radar. Meet ’01 ODP midfielder Zach Benedict of Utah. Benedict is truly a soccer prodigy. Benedict has been a leader for his club sides in Utah, winning nearly every tournament and award the Beehive State has to offer.
Zach and his family quickly realized they would need to leave the state, and possibly the country, in search of the best environment for his development. The Benedict family weighed the possibility of playing for MLS/USSDA club Real Salt Lake, but ultimately felt a move to English football would suit young Zach best.
Zach has the advantage of holding dual US and English citizenship, making the transition to English football much easier* than it might be for other prospects.
*We suspect that moving across the Atlantic at age 12 is never exactly easy.
Zach was invited to train with Arsenal’s U13 Academy team, where he spent a few weeks and even managed to play and score with their U14s. Zach also spent time with Ipswich City Academy squads, and by all reports, he impressed there as well.
Zack has impressive size for his age, but quickly found that the English U13/14 division is much more physical than the play he left behind in the States. He came away from both Arsenal and Ipswich with the same message: while he possesses the technical abilities to thrive at this level, he’ll need to adjust to the physical play.
Heeding that advice, Zach signed a one-year deal with Stanway Rovers Youth Football Club’s U13 squad. The Rovers are one of the top youth clubs in a league that sits right below the academy level in the English pyramid. His move to Stanway gives him the opportunity to cut his teeth in the English game, while getting plenty of playing time. Had he joined up with another academy, playing time could have been limited until he became more accustomed to the style.
Zach will play his first game with his new club on September 9, but has already featured prominently with the Rovers in a few tune-ups before play begins. He is being deployed on both the left and right flanks, causing havoc for opposing defenses.