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By Zach Cavanagh
When most 15-year-olds get jobs, they’re working at the mall, scooping ice cream or bagging groceries.
Whatever job a 15-year-old gets or is even qualified to handle usually isn’t something to consider as a career. And if a 15-year-old is considered as a “professional,” they’re probably a YouTuber or a TikTok influencer.
However, one Dana Point 15-year-old is breaking through and making history in the ranks of professional soccer.
Shane Kaemerle signed with the National Independent Soccer Association’s California United Strikers FC on Feb. 19 to become the youngest professional signing in NISA history.
“It means a lot to be able to play close to home and to be able to play live in front of my friends and family, and I just want to thank Cal United for the opportunity,” Kaemerle said in a press release. “I’m looking forward to the whole professional experience like playing in front of the crowds, the big stadiums and that level against the high competition.”
The NISA is a third-division soccer league in the US Soccer system. MLS is the top division in the system, with the United Soccer League Championship as Division 2. The NISA and USL League One are Division 3.
California United Strikers FC is an inaugural member of the NISA, which began play with its fall season in August. California United plays at the Championship Stadium at the Great Park in Irvine and opens its spring season on Saturday, Feb. 29.
Kaemerle was born and raised in Dana Point and began playing soccer at a young age. Kaemerle got the soccer bug from his father, who played at the University of San Diego, and his older brother.
Kaemerle has played the past five years with the renowned youth soccer program Strikers FC, which is based in Irvine. Strikers FC, part of the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy, has produced United States national team players, such as Bobby Wood, Benny Feilhaber and Christian Ramirez.
It was at Strikers FC where Shane made an impression on California United head coach Don Ebert, who is also the director of coaching for Strikers FC.
“The decision to sign Shane was based on his complete upside as a player,” Ebert said. “He’s not even 16, but he has an absolute rock-solid pathway that he wants to pursue. It’s rare to see a 15-year-old so focused and committed.”
Ebert invited Kaemerle to train with California United six months ago before signing ahead of the spring season. Kaemerle went from playing and training against his age-group peers to competing against grown men with years of professional experience.
In an interview with Dana Point Times, Kaemerle said he was a little intimidated at first and that the faster pace of the game was something he had to get used to, but over that six-month training period, he has fit in with the group and is adjusting to the professional game.
Kaemerle plays on the wing, where he uses his skill to set up plays and score an occasional goal.
While fully committed to California United, Kaemerle has career goals to go bigger and farther into professional leagues in Europe. He knows the steps it will take, which start with working into the starting 11 for California United. But at just 15 years old, there’s plenty of time to work and improve.
“It is very rare to see an athlete at his age have such a clear understanding of what they want to accomplish in their future,” Ebert said in an email to Dana Point Times. “That is what separates Shane from 99% of other players at his age. He is willing to go all-in to achieve his dream of being a big-time professional player either here or in Europe, and I have no doubts he will be successful.”
Kaemerle officially begins his professional journey on Saturday, Feb. 29 as California United Strikers FC opens the 2020 spring season at home against the Michigan Stars at 7 p.m. The first 1,000 fans to the Championship Stadium in Irvine will receive a free scarf.
For more information and tickets, go to calunitedstrikers.com.
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.