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10-year-old Bakersfield soccer player signs with LAFC Academy

LAFC academy season officially begins in August
Posted at 11:24 AM, Apr 10, 2024

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — 10-year-old Mark Vargas signed a contract with LAFC at the end of March to play for their pro soccer academy beginning in August.

  • Video shows young soccer players practicing their game on Tuesday night.
  • Mark is a centerman or striker and says he loves those positions because he plays in the center of the field and gets the ball most of the time, and his coach Mario Ornelas says Mark’s natural ability and dedication have pushed him to the next level.
  • Mark isn’t the only player to sign with a team in LA, 11-year-old Sky Lertpanyawanitchakul was the first to sign with LA Galaxy’s academy, but he was playing in an game on Tuesday night and wasn’t available to talk about his experience.

A group of young boys spend hours at a time on this field and hours in the car… all for the sport they love.
With the help of their coach, they signed contracts with professional soccer academies in Los Angeles.

Kicking a soccer ball has been apart of Mark Vargas’s life for as long as he can remember.

“Ever since I was born, I’ve just been loving the sport,” Mark said.

Mark is a centerman or striker and says he loves those positions because he plays in the center of the field and gets the ball most of the time, and his coach Mario Ornelas says Mark’s natural ability and dedication have pushed him to the next level.

“He worked very hard. That’s I think the biggest ingredient I see in these boys is their hard work,” Ornelas said.

Scouts with LAFC noticed Mark’s talent, and invited him to tryout for their academy, an early surprise for Mark’s dad, Marco Vargas.

“This came sooner than we expected," Vargas said. "You know, me and him would talk… ‘When you turn 14, and I’ll take you to tryout for an academy and they pick you up, you’re going to go have to transition and go live there.”

Vargas says that invite came at just 10 years old, bringing excitement for Mark and his family when he officially signed with the LAFC Academy at the end of March.

“He’s still 10-years-old and I’m super proud of him. I tell him every day,” Vargas said.

Mark travels with his parents to and from LA Monday through Thursday for practices and games.

“What is that like to travel that much to play soccer?” I asked.

“Well, sometimes it’s really far, but once you get there it’s fun,” Mark said.

Drives like that pay off for Mark especially on game days.

He’s played four games with the LAFC academy and already scored a goal.

“It was against my dad’s team.”

The shot came against the Pama Golden Knights, another academy team Vargas coaches with Ornelas, making Mark's first goal with LAFC even sweeter.

“I had this one opportunity," he said. "I shot it and I scored, and what went through my head I was like I scored my first goal with my new club and I was like it’s going to be exciting.”

Mark isn’t the only player to sign with a team in LA, 11-year-old Sky Lertpanyawanitchakul was the first to sign with LA Galaxy’s academy, but he was playing in an game on Tuesday night and wasn’t available to talk about his experience.

But, for Mark, his dreams don’t stop here and his family hopes this will open a door to bigger opportunities for other Bakersfield kids.

"I want to be a professional soccer player and make a lot of money."

The academy's season officially begins in August.


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