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Which three players are the youngest in history: Adu, Nwaneri, and Kimbrough?

  • Chris Wright, Toe Poke writerOct 2, 2023, 05:33 AM ET

Sacramento Republic forward Da'vian Kimbrough wrote his name into the record books this weekend after making his professional debut and becoming the youngest North American player to ever do so in the process.

Aged just 13 years, 7 months and 13 days, Kimbrough came off the bench for the final few minutes of Republic's 2-0 victory over Las Vegas Lights in the United Soccer League (USL) Championship on Sunday evening.

- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

With that, the teenager, who first joined the club's academy system in 2021, became the youngest pro player in the history of North American soccer just two months after signing a first-team contract.

Kimbrough eclipsed the previous USL Championship record, which had been held by Ivory Coast-born striker Axel Kei, who was 13 years, 9 months and 9 days old when he made his pro debut for Real Monarchs (the second side of Major League Soccer outfit Real Salt Lake) in 2021.

¡DA' VIAN KIMBROUGH! ¡VAYAN DIRECTO A ANOTAR ESTE NOMBRE! El joven de 13 años se convirtió en el futbolista estadounidense más joven en hacer su debut profesional... Lo hizo en el 2-0 de Sacramento Republic ante Las Vegas Lights por la USL.

📹 @SacRepublicFC pic.twitter.com/bdn2CYeUsR

— SportsCenter (@SC_ESPN) October 2, 2023

The MLS record is still held by Freddy Adu, who was 14 years, 10 months, 1 day when he made his bow for DC United in 2004.

Last year, a Northern Irish schoolboy by the name of Christopher Atherton entered the record books by becoming the youngest player in the UK to appear in a senior, first-class, fully sanctioned and fully competitive match at the age of 13 years and 329 days.

Atherton was also a late substitute, coming on for Glenavon FC in the Northern Ireland Football League Cup and even providing an assist for their final goal of the night in a resounding 6-0 thrashing of the Lurgan Blues last September.

Here we look a little further afield at some of the youngest players to feature in Europe's Big Five leagues, as well as some of the other mercurial wonderkids who hold the same record across a selection of other notable elite-level competitions.

English Premier League: Ethan Nwaneri, 15 years, 181 days

VIDEO: The Youngest Wonderkid Ever

Coming just 15 days after Atherton's feat, Arsenal set a new Premier League record when they handed a first-team debut to Nwaneri, aged 15 and 181 days.

A product of the Arsenal academy, the midfielder broke a league record that had previously belonged to Liverpool's Harvey Elliott (16 years, 30 days) when he came on for the Gunners in a 3-0 win over Brentford last season. He also became the club's youngest-ever senior player, breaking the record held by Cesc Fabregas.

— Arsenal (@Arsenal) September 18, 2022

English Women's Super League: Lauren James, 16 years and 30 days

VIDEO: Ethan Nwaneri, Premier League youngest ever player
Tasty Football

Now an established star at both club and international level, James also remains the youngest player to feature in the WSL after making her bow in the division while playing for Arsenal less than a month after her 16th birthday.

After just one season with the Gunners, the attacking midfielder moved on to Manchester United and has since signed for Chelsea, where she joined her older brother Reece on the club's books.

Spanish LaLiga: Luka Romero, 15 years and 219 days

VIDEO: 13-year-old Da’vian Kimbrough makes historic debut during Sac Republic FC match

Romero broke a record that had stood since 1939 when he came on for Mallorca in the 83rd minute of a league game against Real Madrid in 2020. That record had previously belonged to Celta Vigo defender Sanson, who was 15 years and 255 days old when he made his debut for the club just a couple of months after the outbreak of the Second World War.

1 - Aged 15 years and 219 days, Mallorca's Luka Romero becomes the youngest player to ever play a @LaLigaEN game, beating Sansón's record for Celta de Vigo in December 1939 (15 years and 255 days). Kid.

— OptaJose (@OptaJose) June 24, 2020

German Bundesliga: Youssoufa Moukoko, 16 years and 1 day

VIDEO: ETHAN NWANERI | 15-Year-Old Arsenal Wonderkid | Youngest Premier League Player Ever | 2022/2023 (HD)

Prodigious striker Moukoko made his senior debut in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund the day after his 16th birthday during the 2020-21 season -- an appearance only made legal after the DFB changed their restrictions on player age the previous year.

Moukoko was subbed on for Erling Haaland for the final five minutes of a 5-2 drubbing of Hertha Berlin to claim the record from fellow Dortmund player Nuri Sahin, who made his debut for the club aged 16 years and 334 days.

Youssoufa Moukoko becomes the youngest player in Bundesliga history. He turned 16 yesterday 🤯 pic.twitter.com/cqyWKZr2di

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 21, 2020
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) November 21, 2020

Italian Serie A: Wisdom Amey, 15 years and 274 days

VIDEO: 13-year-old phenom Da'Vian Kimbrough becomes youngest pro soccer player in U.S.
FOX 5 New York

Amey broke new ground at the tail end of the 2020-21 season when he emerged from the dugout for the final few minutes of Bologna's 2-0 defeat against Genoa. Though he was unable to prevent defeat, the right-back came on in the 89th minute and thus became the youngest player in the history of Italian top flight football.

15-year-old Wisdom Amey became the youngest ever player in Serie A history when came on for Bologna yesterday 👶

He was born 3 months after Lionel Messi won his first La Liga title 🤯 pic.twitter.com/gUetaQAPDc

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 13, 2021

French Ligue 1: Kalman Gerencseri, 15 years and 225 days

VIDEO: Arsenal’s Ethan Nwaneri becomes the youngest Premier League player at age 15
Sky Sports News

The longest-held record in all of Europe's top five leagues can be found in France where Lens midfielder Gerencseri is still the youngest player to appear in a top-flight game, despite doing so against Monaco in August 1960.

To put that in context, Kylian Mbappé was a relatively late bloomer in comparison, having been 16 years and 347 days when he made his maiden bow for Monaco in December 2015.

Major League Soccer: Freddy Adu, 14 years and 306 days

VIDEO: 7♦️ DAVIAN KIMBROUGH at 13 yrs old, he's the youngest athlete to go professional #sacramento
Neb Fula

The original MLS wonderkid, Adu was just 14 years old when he made his league debut for DC United on a wave of hype in 2004. Branded as the "new Pelé" by some, the exceptionally young striker quickly buckled under the weight of those stratospheric expectations, giving way to a largely unsettled and nomadic career.

— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 4, 2020

Europa League: Willem Geubbels, 16 years and 113 days

VIDEO: 13-year-old Da’vian Kimbrough becomes youngest soccer player to go pro in US
Action News Now

Geubbels broke new ground by becoming the first player born in the 21st century to make their Europa League debut when he came on for Lyon in a group stage game against Atalanta in December 2017. The young French forward also became the competition's youngest ever player in the process after entering the fray at the age of just 16.

16 - Willem Geubbels (16y 113d) is the youngest player ever in the UEFA Europa League. Boy.

— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) December 7, 2017

Champions League: Youssoufa Moukoko, 16 years and 18 days

VIDEO: How Good is a PRO Women's GOALKEEPER? (Man City Footballer)
LDN Movements

A little over two weeks on from becoming the Bundesliga's youngest-ever player, Moukoko followed suit in the Champions League when he featured for Dortmund away against Zenit St Petersburg in the group stage of the 2020-21 competition. The 16-year-old striker's introduction in the 58th minute coincided with the Germán side roaring back from a goal down to secure a late 2-1 win in Russia.

🖤💛 16-year-old Dortmund wonderkid Youssoufa Moukoko makes Champions League history as youngest player ever to feature in the competition! #UCL

— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 8, 2020


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