A FORMER Worksop Town junior is just one step away from playing soccer against David Beckham next season.
Dale Parker, 20, has been snapped up by the Colorado Rapids Under 13s development squad following a successful first year of a four-year scholarship at Lee-McRae University in North Carolina.
The big central defender is now just one step away from America's Major League Soccer and a potential meeting with the sport's biggest star, who joins Los Angeles Galaxy in the summer.
And this despite beginning his year in America with a serious injury, which resulted in a third operation in nine months on his meniscus in his foot, which ruled him out of the start of the season.
But after fighting his way back into the team, he made such an impression that he earned the chance to join the Rapids youth set-up for the summer.
Parker told the Guardian: "I worked hard after the operation over Christmas, and managed to be ready for the first spring season game for Lee-McRae College. We played a host of big schools in the spring and I started every game at centre back."
"This led to a chance of playing in the PDL (Professional Development League) during the summer, with the newly-formed Colorado Rapids U23, the youth set-up for the MLS professional team."
"I impressed in the tryouts and got into the starting line-up for the first two games playing in the heart of the deffence."
"The coach mentioned that I gave him no choice but to start me in the team, which was a real confidence boost."
"I'm now continuing to work hard with the team, training on the brand new training facilities, endorsed by the Arsenal Centre of Excellence, next to the new stadium which hosted the 2007 MLS all-star game against Celtic."
"Hopefully this will lead to bigger and better things as I continue to get to the top in the United States."
Parker began his football with East Midlands United and represented Bassetlaw Boys before breaking into the Worksop Town Under 17s team.
He made a handful of reserve team appearances for the Tigers and was scouted by the American colleges while playing for a Sheffield FA select side.
And while the decision to move abroad was a big one, he certainly has no regrets.
"It was the best choice of my life coming to America," Parker said. “The treatment I have had has been second to none and the rehab even better.”
“It’s given me a great chance to step up a level and push for the growing MLS.”
And the Beckham bandwagon has certainly hit America early.
Parker added: “David Beckham’s move to the Galaxy has had a massive influence on the MLS and the interest in the sport.”
“The new Rapids stadium sold out last week when we played LA Galaxy even though Becks wasn’t there so the interest from a fans’ point of view is phenomenal.”
“The goals of many college students, like myself, have changed as the chance of playing in the MLS is more appealing with the hype of David Beckham, and also the potential growth the league has with his arrival.”
So how close is Parker to actually playing in the MLS?
The Professional Development League runs until the end of summer when he is set to return to North Carolina to begin his second year.
In the meantime, the Rapids senior team will play their Under 23 counterparts in a brace of exhibition games to give the coaches a chance to assess the abilities of players like Parker.