North

Yukon soccer phenom signs pro contract with Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 team

Joe Hanson, 18, will play his first game as a professional later this month. "It's still sinking in, but I'm excited and I know that it means a lot to the territory and a lot of people that have helped me and worked with me along this path."

'It's still sinking in, but I'm excited,' says 18-year-old Joe Hanson

Joe Hanson, 18, signed a two-year contract to play with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 team. He's been told he's the first Yukoner to sign a professional soccer contract. (Submitted by Joe Hanson)

Yukon soccer phenom Joe Hanson will play his first game as a professional later this month after signing a contract with the Vancouver Whitecaps organization.

"It doesn't feel real yet, but it does," the 18-year-old said. "It's still sinking in, but I'm excited and I know that it means a lot to the territory and a lot of people that have helped me and worked with me along this path."

Hanson, who has been told he's the first Yukoner to sign a professional soccer contract, signed a two-year contract to play with the Whitecaps's reserve team, the Whitecaps FC 2 team, that plays in the MLS Next Pro league. 

The team is made up mostly of players under 23 who are looking to get into the first team, Whitecaps FC, which plays in the MLS, the top professional league in Canada and the U.S.

Hanson, who is an attacking midfielder, is confident he'll get there one day.

Hanson will play his first game as a professional soccer player in Houston against the Houston Dynamo 2 on March 26. (Submitted by Joe Hanson)

"There's definitely a chance I can play with the big team and break with them," he said.

He said he's focused on the FC 2 team and himself right now, and winning as many games as possible, but in the back of his mind, he's also thinking about the first team, which he's already had an opportunity to train with a few times.

"I feel like I'm close. With a bit more experience and, you know, as I get a bit older, I think I'll definitely be able to break in with that team," he said.

Lifelong dream

Hanson said he started playing organized soccer when he was five and it's always been his dream to play professionally.

When he was nine, his dad told him that if he wanted to become a pro, he had to get serious about it now.

Around that time, he started playing with a team in Seattle.

"[I] got scouted and noticed a little bit as a player," he said. "So I think around then, I started to kind of really take it seriously and realize that I could take it somewhere."

He said a lot of people helped him along the way, including coaches and friends, but especially his parents.

"They sacrificed really everything for me to be able to, you know, go on trips and get those opportunities that kids in the North don't usually get," he said.

Hanson said many people helped get to where he is, especially his parents. 'They sacrificed really everything for me to be able to, you know, go on trips and get those opportunities that kids in the North don't usually get,' he said. (Submitted by Joe Hanson)

His father, Jake Hanson, is a longtime coach who ran Whitehorse's Total Soccer Excellence Academy.

Hanson said his parents have always been by his side, even when he doubted himself, or others doubted someone from the Yukon could reach the professional level.

"There's been lots of doubts … because of where I'm from," he said. "Being so isolated in the North, really, it's been a tough mental journey, you know, somewhat more than physical."

Aiming for Team Canada

Eventually, Hanson said he would also like to play for the Canadian national soccer team and represent his country.

He's hopeful he'll be on the under-20 World Cup team that will compete in 2023.

"I'm definitely very focused on breaking into that team and getting an opportunity to wear the Maple Leaf. That's definitely something I want to do," he said.

In the meantime, Hanson and the Whitecaps FC 2 team will play their first game March 26 in Houston against the Houston Dynamo 2 team.

With files from Dave White

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