Jack McBean finds himself caught between being a kid and growing up. Earlier this year, the 16-year-old joined the LA Galaxy as a Home Grown product, making him the club's youngest signing ever, but he spent most of the spring training with the United States Under-17 team in Bradenton, Fla.
In April, he traveled to the CONCACAF Championship with the U-17s — tallying two assists in the 3-0 victory over Canada in the final — but also trained with David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Juan Pablo Ángel and the rest of Major League Soccer's most famous side.
Now he finds himself back under Wilmer Cabrera's wing as part of the potent strike force that will look to carry the US at the World Cup in Mexico. McBean will team with Mario Rodriguez and Alfred Koroma, providing a clinical finishing yin to the pair's athletic yang.
Chris Klein, senior director of the Galaxy Academy, has watched his charge's progress in the past six months. He believes the forward can make a big impact at the World Cup.
"He's very mature physically and a very good finisher in front of the net," the former American right back and midfielder told MLSsoccer.com. "He's able to do that effectively against kids his age or a year or two older. Against his peers, he'll do very well."
Klein said McBean struggled with the transition to first-team, professional soccer, but that was to be expected. He didn't spend much time with the Galaxy due to international duty and had difficulties adjusting to the pace of play. The forward needs to work on his first touch and improve in the air if he wants to succeed on the professional level.
Klein believes he'll get there.
"His mental make-up and attitude is strong," said Klein. "He's a good kid who understands what it is like to be a professional. That's a huge part of it when you're looking at a kid his age."
McBean's improvement has not gone unnoticed beyond the American shores. His parents are from Scotland and that country's national team coach, Craig Levein, recently confirmed his interest in the teenager. (Scotland are aggressively expanding their search for players after missing out on talents such as Stuart Holden.)
For now, however, the forward is happily ensconced in the US system. He may not start for the US in Mexico, but he will at least play a role off the bench for Cabrera's crew. With Andrew Oliver - the goal-scoring star in qualifying who was dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons - gone from the team, his minutes will increase as well. If Klein is correct, McBean's difficult time training with the Galaxy will pay off when he lines up against his agemates.
McBean's chance to be an adult is coming, but for the next month, he can hang out with his peers.
He will, however, still have some adult-sized shoes to fill.