It was an introductory interview to the 2021 MLS season where Inter Miami CF co-owners David Beckham and Jorge Mas emphasized the importance of “culture” within their club. Not only a winning culture, but one from their organization’s grassroots.
“The DNA of this club has to be what comes through our academy system,” Beckham exclaimed in the presser. “There’s nothing prouder than seeing a homegrown player come through our system and play at the highest level. I had it at Manchester United… whatever player we brought into the club, whatever player came in and was a big signing. I don’t think anything compared to the young players brought through the academy system that were going into the first team.”
After joining the Inter Miami Academy in 2019, seventeen-year-old Noah Allen became the club’s fourth academy product to sign for the first team, following Felipe Valencia, Edison Azcona, and Ian Fray. By working through the academy, playing with the second team, then being handed two starting jobs to open the 2022 MLS Season, Allen was offered a homegrown deal from his hometown club. The Pembroke Pines native fully epitomized the idea expressed by David Beckham.
“It was a long wait for sure,” Allen explained. “A lot of ups and downs, but it was one of the best moments of my life.”
Before getting into the “beautiful game,” Noah Allen was also a basketball and baseball player. The fact that soccer is played year-round in South Florida, and despite being a pretty decent baseball player, he ultimately decided to stick with soccer.
Noah Allen’s love for soccer guided him to play with West Pines United in Pembroke Pines before joining Weston Academy when he was about ten years old. From there, he heard about and eventually leaped to the Inter Miami Academy in 2019.
“I remember into my second or third year at Weston. I remember hearing about Inter Miami wanting to be formed. David Beckham was coming here saying it was his dream to own a team here,” Noah explained. “I remember thinking, ‘this could actually happen, this could be big! It’s a professional team!”
The excitement at that time for all soccer fans in South Florida was huge. Huge because this part of the state had not had a professional team since the Miami Fusion dissolved in 2002, and the lack of a local club at any top division was affecting the city since the Fort Lauderdale Strikers disbanded in 2016.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers matches were the only games Allen went to as a kid, barring a couple of pre-season-friendly tournament games he attended through the International Champions Cup. And for many fans of the sport and young kids like Allen, those were the only experiences to have until Inter Miami came along.
Allen was deadset that playing for Inter Miami was a dream he had to fulfill before joining the academy. The impact on the community that the club had on him and undoubtedly many other players alike, especially at a young age, is unfathomable and was precisely the reaction the current club owners wanted.
“The young guys that we have here [in South Florida], and the potential of the guys that we have here is huge and could be so much bigger,” Beckham said back in the 2021 press conference.
When Allen finally joined the academy in 2019, between fourteen and fifteen years of age, it was almost immediately that he saw action with an older age group. The U17-U18 team that Allen became a part of, played in the club’s first-ever official match in South Korea. The 2019 K League U-17 Championship took place from August 11-20 of that year, and Allen describes it as a year and the tournament that he “learned a lot” from.
“That tournament really helped me take the next step,” Allen stated following his MLS debut in his post-match press conference.
Allen was firm when discussing that the group of guys he played with in Korea was one of the best teams he’d been on, and if it weren’t for the pandemic shutting things down months after, it would’ve helped some of the kids on that team progress even more.
Part of that U-17/18 team that took the trip to Korea were some of Inter Miami’s young stars now. Edison Azcona and Ian Fray, along with other academy starlets at the moment, were part of the squad coached by Jason Kries that had such a successful time over in Asia. The impact of a “world-class coach,” according to Allen, never went unnoticed.
“He’s a different level….he helped me learn so much,” Allen said, referring to Kreis. “This coaching staff is so crazy. It helped me so much [to] mature as a person and as a player.”
Following a 3-1 win against Pohang to cap off the competition in Korea, the Inter Miami CF Academy team finished second in their group.
Allen’s next step following the tournament and the pandemic through the academy was the jump to the club’s USL League One side at the time, Fort Lauderdale CF. Now known as Inter Miami CF II, which plays in the newly formed MLS Next Pro League, Allen, among many other academy products, was exposed to and gained experience with a professional environment among professional players.
The makeup of USL League One at the time was interesting and had been for a while. On the one hand, the league saw teams like Fort Lauderdale CF, an affiliate to an MLS side, use their games to help develop the younger talent they had in their respective systems. And on the other hand, some clubs were independent organizations that had very little focus on developing young players compared to affiliate teams and instead were competing for championships every year.
There is more than one way to perceive what this league makeup does for specific individuals, but it could be seen as positive in Allen and other young players who play for MLS affiliate sides’ perspectives.
“The physicality level is very similar to MLS,” Allen explained. “That really helped me adapt. I know I’m not the biggest guy or the fastest guy, but my dad and many coaches told me I’d have to adapt to be successful. If I wanted to make it, I’d have to adapt.”
Atmospheres in matches for individual clubs compared to those of an MLS affiliate team were also very different and had players like Allen experience a filled stadium, under the lights, with pressure.
“The hardest trip and the most fun trip too was Madison,” Allen began to describe. “They had a great supporters section, a great city too. My parents went to that game, and we had a draw at the end of that. Probably the best atmosphere I’ve played against.”
Despite any threat of adversity for a young player in a physically demanding league, Noah Allen was still able to shine through as one of the league’s best during 2021.
After playing just two matches for Fort Lauderdale CF in the 2020 USL League One campaign, Allen made significant strides in the offseason going into 2021, which showed through his performances. Performances not only recognized by his club, but by the league he played in as well.
Following the 27 matches he played in during that next season, Noah Allen was named the USL League One Young Player of the Year, beating out his teammate Shaan Hundal, one of the three nominees, for the award.
In an interview with The Heron Outlet after winning the award, Allen talked about his possible path to the first team after being asked where he sees himself in the future.
“I’m excited for the future,” Allen explained. “I know that my trajectory is on a good path, and I’m ready to keep putting in work and keep getting better.”
“Three years forward, my goal is to play in MLS,” he stated. “To attack every opportunity I get.”
From third-tier American soccer to now the first tier, the jump for Noah Allen wasn’t a small one (and it definitely didn’t take three years for him to get to this point). The signing of a homegrown deal for a seventeen-year-old makes everyone involved proud, especially when it wasn’t a guarantee to begin the 2022 MLS season.
Noah Allen debuted for the first team on February 26th, 2022, following a “short-term loan deal” from the club’s second team. A start for the young left-back came about, in part, due to numerous injuries on the Inter Miami CF squad, especially at his position. However, after his first start, Inter Miami’s head coach Phil Neville explained that Allen’s MLS minutes may have always been part of the plan.
“We wanted to use the preseason period to see how he developed. To see the challenge that’s in front of him,” Neville explained. “He’s got incredible talent that just needs time to develop… He’s well in my plans. He knows we think a lot of him. And he knows he’s got a lot of work to do to keep improving.”
What complicated the matter was that Allen had not yet been given an MLS contract at the point of his first start, so when he made his second start in 2022 in Austin, Texas, the reality was that a play by the club was imminent.
Inter Miami CF II listed Allen to their initial roster that looks to kick off their campaign in MLS Next Pro on Saturday, March 26th. The formation of this league may have had the intention of helping MLS clubs. However, when specific call-up rules were made certain, the idea of a homegrown deal for Allen almost became a necessity for Inter Miami.
The league stated that a contracted MLS Next Pro player was only able to play in two MLS League matches despite the ability to have four different loan deals that could amount to a sixteen-day total. So once that second appearance was made by Allen in Austin, the question about an Allen homegrown deal loomed.
In a press conference on March 11th, Neville finally answered and broke the news.
“We’ve offered him an MLS homegrown contract, and he signed it,” Neville said. “It’s brilliant news for the club… he’s now an MLS player.”
And from that point forward, it’d been a dream come true for the South Florida native, but it wasn’t without any hardship or skepticism.
“It was all hard. It was a tough situation,” Allen said. “I just played through it, didn’t really think of it. Obviously, after I played the second game, it was on my mind, on my parents’ minds, but I tried not to focus on it. I just wanted to focus on my play.”
So how does a seventeen-year-old athlete, playing in a professional league, see the difference in quality and aim to compete with professional athletes that could be double his age?
“It’s definitely tough, I’m not gonna lie,” Allen stated. “Lots of quality in MLS. But I work with these guys every day, and they’re making me better. They’re getting me used to MLS players. To adapt in training will lead to adapting in games, and that’s the biggest key for me.”
The mental aspect of it? Understanding or trying to better understand the game you play while a young player’s experience can’t compare to a veteran’s is something to work on.
“The players talk to me a lot,” Allen said. “They all really help me. They all understand me; they’re all very good with me. The coaches, too, even the trainers. They go through everything, and that’s very key for me, a young player who’s been through ups and downs. They emphasize there are going to be ups and downs, but it’s how you handle them. They help me get through them.”
Noah Allen has been on this journey since even before ten years old, and the idea that a hometown kid was able to achieve his dream of signing a contract with his hometown club speaks volumes to the type of player and man he’s become. The support system through his parents, whom he speaks extremely highly of and mentions often, seemed to be a key to achieving his dream.
“They’re amazing,” Allen exclaimed when referring to his parents. “They help me so much. I live far from [DRV PNK Stadium], [I live] down south. It’s a forty-five-minute drive, and I remember when I didn’t have a car, they’d have to drive me here every day, wait here, then drive back.”
It wasn’t just when he started with the Miami academy that his parents had to put in real effort to aid him.
“I even remember being younger too,” Allen began to describe. “Driving to Weston wasn’t the closest. Driving to practices was tough for them. They have their own lives too. But they always supported my goal; they never thought once ‘soccer’s not for you,’ they never told me that once.”
“Honestly, without them, I would not be who I am,” Allen stated. “I have to thank them the most.”
The fact that Inter Miami has made its fourth homegrown signing from their academy is a massive, massive deal. All involved should be genuinely proud of the work put in by the club and the players involved.
Players on the Inter Miami first team, including Damion Lowe and Kieran Gibbs, have expressed their excitement and happiness for Allen since his signing.
“Really happy for him,” Gibbs said to the media following a training session. “I’ll try and help him as much as I can with what I learned from the game. He seems like a composed young boy, quite mature for his age. I like the way he plays, and I wish him all the best.”
“He’s confident,” Lowe stated in a press conference earlier this year. “I’m happy to have him around. I went over to hug him when I found out he got his homegrown deal… I’m happy that he’s a part of us so he can grow, and I can say one day, ‘hey, I played with that guy!’ Bright future for sure.”
For Noah Allen, signing the contract with his hometown club isn’t the end. His aspirations continue to grow as he progresses through the ranks in the sport he loves.
“Long-term goal for me is to play in a top-five league in Europe,” Allen stated. “I would also love to get called up to the senior [United States Men’s National Team]. I think that’s short-term or long-term… to represent my country. [With] Inter Miami my dad is dreaming right now. But I think if I were to get a call-up to the senior team, he would be completed.”