Jacob Shaffelburg, the reigning Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year, has significant interest to sign a professional contract in Europe or with Major League Soccer, said a source with direct knowledge of the situation.
Shaffelburg, a Nova Scotia native entering his senior season at the Berkshire School, could sign with MLS and be eligible for the 2019 MLS SuperDraft in January. German clubs 1. FC Nürnberg, Werder Bremen and Fortuna Dusseldorf have also shown interest in the forward.
“I’m just going day by day with it,” Shaffelburg said by phone. “I haven’t thought too in depth yet, because my plan is to go to school in the fall and focus on that. I don’t want to get overwhelmed with it all. I want to focus on preseason in Costa Rica with Berkshire, and if anything happens before then it does.”
The 18-year-old, who has verbally committed to the University of Virginia, spent the summer starring for Black Rock FC during its first year in the Premier Development League (PDL). He also has trained with several MLS sides, including the New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC. Notably, Shaffelburg has never played for a Canadian youth national team.
Through three seasons at Berkshire, Shaffelburg has recorded 50 goals and 25 assists, quickly cementing himself as one of the top players in prep school soccer. He often beats opponents on the dribble with straight-line speed, or can cut inside to finish chances and combine with teammates.
“I want to go back for my senior year and hopefully captain the team,” Shaffelburg said. “I’ve never done that, and captaining Berkshire, which has done so much for me, would be amazing.”
Berkshire, which lost last year’s Class A title game to Loomis Chaffee, is entering its second season under head coach Charlie Bour. He said that the Bears would love to have Shaffelburg back, but there’s far more to consider.
“If the kid is offered a million-dollar contract tomorrow, I’d tell him to of course take that,” Bour said by phone. “The other part is – and I mean this genuinely – I truly want what’s best for him and his family. As much as he would put nitro boosters on our team this year, the reality is it’s about the kid and not about whether we win the championship.”
Shaffelburg is one of several prep standouts bound for Virginia next year, including Berkshire teammate Nicholas Berghold and Milton Academy midfielder Jeremy Verley. Amos Shapiro-Thompson (Worthington, Mass.), another Milton Academy product, similarly is committed to Virginia but is currently in Poland with the Legia Warsaw reserves.
Still, there’s no guarantee that the Canadian ever suits up for the Cavaliers.
“My goal is to turn pro soon, but it doesn’t end there,” Shaffelburg said. “I want to go somewhere where I can make an impact instead of being a practice player.”
As an 18-year-old, Shaffelburg can sign a professional contract overseas without hindrance, per FIFA rules. The only true hiccup would arise in the United Kingdom, where strict regulations make it difficult for young prospects to secure a work permit unless they hold a European Union passport.