According to a report from Sam Marsden of ESPN, American Ben Lederman is signing with KAA Gent in a deal “which will be confirmed soon.” Voetball Belgie first reported in June that he was on trial with the club.
The 18-year old California-native joined the FC Barcelona Academy seven years ago and has been a source of casual interest for USMNT fans as he’s progressed through the youth ranks. Lederman announced he was leaving the Spanish super club in a post on his personal Instagram account:
Hoy toca despedirme del mejor club del mundo después de 7 años, donde he podido vivir una experiencia única e inolvidable en el @Fcbarcelona. Quiero dar las gracias a todos mis compañeros, entrenadores, fisios, delegados y sobretodo a La Masia. Todos me habeis ayudado a mejorar mucho como futbolista y como persona. Se cierra una etapa bonita pero se abre una nueva. Toca seguir luchando por mi sueño Gracias a todos y Visca el Barça! ❤️
Today it’s time to say goodbye to the best club in the world after 7 years, where I have been able to live a unique and unforgettable experience at @Fcbarcelona. I want to thank all my colleagues, coaches, physios, delegates and especially La Masia. You have helped me improve a lot as a soccer player and as a person. A beautiful stage closes but a new one opens. I have to keep fighting for my dream. Thanks to all and Visca Barça!
(via Google Translate)
Lederman was forced to temporarily leave Barcelona in 2014 after FIFA ruled that the club was “in violation of Article 19 of its Regulations on the Status and Transfers of Players, which prohibits the signing of players under 18 outside of their home country.” After a brief stint with the U.S. residential program in Bradenton, Florida, he returned to La Masia after acquiring his Polish passport. He spent last season with the club’s Juvenil B squad.
Gent finished last season in fourth place in Belgian First Division A. The Buffalos open their 2017-2018 season today against Standard Liège. Additionally, Gent has an upcoming two-leg series in the Europe League on August 9th and 16th against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.
While some may be disappointed by the move, this is a step in the right direction for a prospect looking for playing time at the first-team level. If Gent manages to qualify for the Europa League group stage, then there will be extra opportunities for the midfielder to earn playing time. It’s difficult to break through at arguably the best club in the world, and many players have gone on to have impressive careers after leaving elite clubs without a first team appearance. Lederman’s time at La Masia will undoubtedly serve him well moving forward and boost his resume as he navigates through his professional career.
With U.S. Soccer’s increased focus on youth, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Lederman began earning senior national team call-ups in a few years. He’s been a semi-regular inclusion at the various youth levels and regular appearances in Gent’s rotation should vault him into the conversation. His next goal should be landing a spot on the 2019 U-20 World Cup roster, which would provide a platform the demonstrate his abilities.