At Right to Dream, we've had front row seats to the fantastic journeys of 146 graduates who carried with them years of development, training, and education and launched their professional football careers.
And just a few months ago, we proudly watched seven alumni showcase their talents at the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup saw, including Mohammed Kudus who made a name for himself at Ajax and garnered attention for his standout performances in the UEFA Champions League.
The Right to Dream impact also extends to the MLS. Over the past decade, 12 graduates have made their mark in the league.
“If you told 10-year-old me when I was heading to Right to Dream that one day, I would be in the position that I’m in, that’d be a dream come true to that kid.”
These were the words of Ousseni Bouda. He’s a Right to Dream Graduate. A Stanford University Student. And a San Jose Earthquakes Forward.
Ousseni is one of our graduates who chose to pursue Right to Dream’s academic pathway. He capitalized on his exceptional talent and education and tapped into Right to Dream’s strong academic network to study at Millbrook School and Stanford University (Our students were awarded over $25M in high school and university scholarships across the US and UK so far).
And the academic pathway connected him back to pro football. He got drafted into the MLS. And he kicked off his professional soccer career with San Jose Earthquakes.
Others graduates, however, took a different path to the MLS. And their stories have been nothing short of inspiring, too.
Some graduates like David Accam - the longest Right to Dream Graduate to play in the MLS – were more interested in a professional football pathway. And years of elite football, character and education development and exposure at international tournaments landed them stints in Europe before they made the jump to the MLS.
But let’s not get it twisted, turning pro and making it in the MLS is no easy feat. It’s more than just fancy footwork and goalscoring skills. It’s a grueling process, and according to our graduates, the road to success there is paved with adaptability, patience, perseverance, and mental fortitude.
“I have always been the best player on the team when I was in school and college, and then for the first time I walked somewhere, and I was a rookie and I had to behave as a rookie in the locker room and around the club. And that was something I wasn’t used to, and I had to learn how to adapt to,”
Joshua Yaro, another Right to Dream Alumni who graduated from Georgetown University and is playing his eighth pro season, echoes Ousseni’s thoughts.
“Everyone who plays professionally in the MLS is a good player, so now the competition is massive and you’ve to prove yourself. The pressure that comes along with the pro level, if you’re not mentally strong enough, you’re going to get destroyed,”
said the St. Louis City center-back.
The journey doesn’t get easier though. And there’re even more challenges along the road. Making it in the MLS is a continuous process of development – you need to keep working harder and getting better every day.
“Your first contract, getting drafted, that’s the easy part. It’s once you have that; can you stay in the league? can you stay as a pro?”
Even Yaw Yeboah who had an eight-year career in Europe under his belt still faced challenges when he who joined Columbus Crew. But with the support and advice of fellow Right to Dream graduates who had MLS experience, the switch was smoother.
“The challenge isn’t just getting into the league. I’m trying to adapt to the style of play, to the country, to the city of Columbus, the coach, the philosophy of the team and everything,”
“The MLS is one of the best leagues in the world, bringing top players in the league, a lot of players want to come from Europe and a lot of players back in Europe are talking about the MLS and this is fantastic. Having the opportunity to play in this league, you've to be grateful and appreciative,”
the Columbus Crew winger added.
And despite the hurdles, our graduates were more than up for the challenges. And their incredible stories and journeys are a testament that hard work, dedication, and right opportunities pay off.
“I believe that in order to succeed in this level, especially in the MLS, you have to have confidence in your own abilities and be able to work very hard for yourself, and the minute you do that no one can stand your way,”
said Francis Atuahene, a Right to Dream Graduate who played at FC Dallas.
Francis recently retired from playing football professionally after a series of injuries, but he believes his upbringing, holistic development record, and the path he’s taken have prepared him for his MLS journey and shaped him into the footballer and person he is today. And now he’s ready to take the next step in his career beyond the pitch.
“Every time I find myself in a position where I can’t do something, I remind myself the opportunity that Right to Dream has given me and say to myself what if I can break this barrier it’s going to motivate the other Right to Dream guys,”
“And the minute I found I am not enjoying the game, I started to look beyond football and that’s where Right to Dream has been preparing us since we got to the academy,”