New Sounders FC Homegrown Player Jacob Castro’s journey to the First Team is the type of story you normally only see in movies.
In the United States, professional soccer development follows a similar recipe. Top talents are identified at a young age and brought into competitive youth clubs. The best of the best in this system then make their way into youth academies, where they will train and develop for years before they either make the jump to college or sign their first pro contract.
Castro followed a different path, and it made the moment he signed with his hometown club that much more special.
“Everyone in my whole family is excited,” Castro told SoundersFC.com. “We’re all at a loss for words.”
A native of Spanaway, Wash., Castro played rec soccer most of his life to spend time with his friends. He didn’t start playing soccer competitively until he was 15 years old, when he joined Washington Premier FC’s second team so he could balance playing high school football.
Then one fateful day in 2017, former Sounders Academy goalkeeper coach Josh Ford and current VP of Player Development Henry Brauner found Castro while scouting a different player.
“It just so happened that on the other field, Jacob was playing with Washington Premier’s B-team,” recalled Brauner. “We’re watching this other goalie we’d heard about, and he was pretty good. But then we’re looking at the other field and we’re like ‘who is that guy?’”
“These corner kicks are coming in and he’s running through the crowd and grabbing it one-handed and then throwing it to the striker for a breakaway, “Brauner continued. “Josh saw him and decided he was the player he wanted to work with… We watched him a couple more times. There was this one game we went and watched at Interbay. His team ended up losing 3-0 but without him in goal it probably would have been 12 to be honest.”
When the Sounders finally contacted Castro to invite him into the Academy, he was on the verge of committing to play college football as a wide receiver. A lifelong fan of the Sounders, he decided to pursue soccer and joined the Academy for his senior year of high school.
“I can’t thank Josh Ford enough,” said Castro. “He’s done so much for me over the years. I am extremely grateful to be under his wing – I still talk to him to this day as a mentor. He kind of just shifted my whole mindset of goalkeeping and finetuning little pieces of my game. He was extremely patient with me because he knew this was brand new to me.”
After a year of learning how to play goalkeeper at the highest levels, Castro committed to play soccer at the University of Washington. He spent two years training under Huskies goalkeeper coach Rich Reece, where he spent countless hours working on the finer points of goalkeeping like his footwork, technique, positioning and handling.
Ultimately, he decided to take a risk and transfer to San Diego State University in search of more playing time.
“I had aspirations of going pro,” said Castro. “So, I kind of just bet on myself. I honestly didn’t really know how I was in games because I hadn’t played a game in three years. I just bet on myself and wanted to see how it goes.”
In his first year as a full-time starter, Castro was named the All-Pac-12 First Team in 2021. He earned All-Pac-12 Second Team this year as a senior before signing his first professional contract with his boyhood club.
“I was looking through my old Snapchat Memories and seeing photos of me with a massive group of people [at the 2016 MLS Cup Parade], screaming chants and cheering on the Sounders,” said Castro. “I’ve been a lifelong fan. It’s kind of surreal, and it’s a blessing to be playing for the First Team.”
Castro will now spend everyday training alongside the likes of Stefan Frei, Stefan Cleveland and Andrew Thomas, all under the stewardship of Director of Goalkeeping Tom Dutra.
“Tommy is one of the best,” said Brauner. “When you have these high potential players and you put them in the best environment, good things can happen. We’re excited to see that.”
It’s certainly a special moment to become a professional with your local club. For Castro, the journey is just beginning as he looks to carve out a career at the highest level. But if he continues on his current trajectory, the sky is the limit.
“Every year we see him take another big step, meaning he’s still growing and the cup isn’t full with him,” said Brauner. “We still see so much more potential for Jacob.”