29 Aug Arizona Native Bryce Duke Chooses Barça Residency Academy For Senior Season
August 29, 2019
3:57 PM MDT
“My goal is to play professionally in Europe, and the best way for me to do that, personally, is to come to Barça”
One of Arizona’s own has come home, at least for his senior year. United States U-18 international Bryce Duke has made his much-heralded move from Real Salt Lake to the Barça Residency Academy, and with good reason.
“My goal is to play professionally in Europe, and the best way for me to do that, personally, is to come to Barça.”
Originally from Peoria, Ariz., Duke is a product of the CCV Stars youth system, which prompted a 2015 trial with Real Salt Lake, then tenants of Grande Sports World. RSL liked the youngster, but Bryce fancied his chances of playing time to be better with Phoenix-based Valparaiso (coincidentally now part of RSL-AZ).
The staff in Casa Grande persisted, and Duke made the switch in the spring of 2016, just before the club moved into its facility in Herriman, Utah, Zion’s Bank Real Academy.
Bryce enjoyed his two years in Herriman, and reflects positively on the whole experience.
“Everything was good there, to be honest,” he said. But when coaches began to change, and when members of the academy teams found minutes at the club’s higher levels hard to come by, Bryce began thinking about a change.
Meanwhile, like many high school students, Bryce was exploring his educational future. The NCAA allows colleges to reach out directly to their recruits on September 1 of the student’s junior year. At 12:01 a.m. EDT on September 1, 2018, Bryce received a message from his first choice, Wake Forest University, while attending a tournament in California.
“It’s pretty cool how they reached out that fast,” he said. “Wake Forest has been kind of a dream school of mine. When I watched college soccer when I was younger, I would watch them and I loved how they played.”</br>
Bryce checked out other schools too, and even toured the University of North Carolina. But in the end his choice was easy. “I liked the camaraderie and the environment. The people, the coaching staff at Wake Forest were super welcoming. I just felt like it was the place for me.”
Far from turning his back on the dream of playing professionally in Europe, Bryce is simply laying out his options. When the professional offers come in, he’ll have a decision to make.
“I’ve talked to my parents about this,” he said, “and I’m not going to throw away a scholarship to Wake Forest if the contract isn’t right.”
And Bryce already has an inspiration for life after soccer.
“I’m planning to major in business,” he said. “My dad owns a construction company, and I look up to him, so I want to do something like that.”
Making a Move
Bryce was focused on RSL during his time there, but couldn’t help noticing the exploits of old club rivals like Cameron Fisher and Christian Ortiz, as well as Barça’s stunning run to the Development Academy national semifinals.
“And even social media,” he said. “They expose their players. They want people to know about them.”
He stayed committed to his club all the way through the 2019 playoffs and beyond, earning training time with RSL’s first team and USL team. “But then Barça reached out, I looked at my options, and made the move.”
Bryce is settling in for his senior season, where he joins a long line of Barça Residency Academy players with youth national team experience. At a U-18 camp in February, he was privileged to work with coach Tab Ramos, and earned 45 minutes in a scrimmage against LA Galaxy II.
“There’s not one person who doesn’t stand out. Everyone is quality. It raises the level and demands a lot from you. When you go and the pressure’s on, it’s just a matter of whether you show up or not. It was a great experience.”