Adam Warren looks more likely to one day make the high-school Math League team than the FC Barcelona professional Spanish soccer team.
Looks are deceiving.
"What separates the best from the really good is a small margin," says Joe Pugh, president of the Chesterfield United soccer league, which this week sends 12-year-old Warren along with about 30 of its other players to Spain on a training trip.
While there, Warren will be eyed by scouts from FC Barcelona. He'll train with the club. And he'll give Barcelona a chance to see what an American kid has to offer.
"I don't think we've ever had anybody that we've been able to just send over there and train," Pugh says.
It's not the first professional team that's looked at Warren. Chesterfield United coaches have made a point of raising the profile of their players through these yearly trips abroad to countries where soccer reigns supreme. Last year, Warren was scouted by Boca Juniors, the premier soccer club in Argentina, during a Chesterfield United trip there.
"It basically could set him up for going over and training over there," Pugh says "and at some point in time, a contract."
In Europe and in Latin American countries professional soccer is taken more seriously than the States. Players may begin training with leagues at a young age. Prospects are groomed to play professionally. Competition, on the field and off, is fierce.
Adam shrugs it all off. He turned 12 last Friday and seemed more fazed by some gentle ribbing from a few teammates than by the prospect of playing European or South American professional soccer.
"I'm used to it," he says, noting that he's always excelled on teams with players older than him. Now he plays in Chesterfield United's 13-year-old division. "When you play a league up here, everybody's so big," he says. "But it doesn't occur to me. I just try to play as best as I can."
The Midlothian Middle School sixth-grader says the experience of his Argentina visit has him ready to face training in Barcelona.
"We were like tourists," he says of the Argentina trip. "Then we started playing soccer. They were good, but I just came with my game. And they wanted me." (An offer to train with the team is still on the table.)
A former European professional himself, John Roach is head coach for Chesterfield United, and he's clearly pleased he has a budding superstar in his ranks.
"We'll find out next week just how good he is," Roach says optimistically. And he's optimistic for the rest of his young players as well. After all, they match wits and moves with Warren weekly: "I think all the kids are going to get the chance to get seen [in Barcelona]. Adam is just going to open the door." S