Jan. 13, 1998
Olympic Goalkeeping Prospect Kirk Signs with Project-40
Teammate Cooks also turns pro
COLLEGE PARK, MD. - Maryland sophomore goalkeeper Andy Kirk, who caught the eyes of many international scouts with a string of strong performances at last summer's World Youth Championships, is joining the growing ranks of young American players who are giving up college soccer to play professionally.
Kirk is leaving College Park to sign with Major League Soccer as part of its Project 40 program geared towards developing young professional players.
Kirk is the second Maryland underclassmen in as many days to announce he is leaving school early; midfielder Judah Cooks, a second-team all ACC player, announced Sunday he's forsaking his final year of eligibility. "Playing professional soccer is something Andy's always wanted to do and he felt now was the best time to (turn professional)," Jack Kirk, Andy's father," said by phone. "He's thought about it for a long time and he knows if he wants to get better, he has to play at a higher level."
Kirk, 20, is considered the front-runner to be the starter for the US Olympic team in 2000. He had a very strong performance with the U-20 team that competed in Malaysia in the World Youth Championships last summer. Based on that performance, he was invited to train with Glasgow Rangers of the Scottish Premier League later that summer. By all accounts Kirk performed well during his two weeks with Rangers but the club had just signed a young Finnish goalkeeper and thus did not offer him a contract.
Project 40 is a youth development program designed to give top American prospects an alternative to college soccer and help develop them for the 2000 Olympics. Unlike the World Cup, the 2000 Olympics will be for players 23 and younger and players must be born on or after Jan. 1, 1977 to be eligible for the Olympics.
The fathers of both Kirk and Cooks said that their sons discussed their decision with Maryland coach Sasho Cirivski and he gave both players their blessings. "This is not about Sasho or Judah being unhappy at Maryland," said Stoney Cooks.