Updated: Jan 29
Sixteen year old Taha Habroune, a midfielder for the Crew SC Academy’s U17 MLS Next team has been a consistent stand out. His hard work is starting to pay dividends including expanded opportunities with the Crew organization but also a coveted call up to the USYNT at a critical time when US Soccer is preparing for the 2026 World Cup. But, what probably makes his experience most unique is that virtually all of Taha’s development has been in the Crew Player Development system. This is not common in the US but based on past results the Columbus Crew Academy staff is good at identifying and developing players.
It certainly hasn’t been easy to get to this point, even before the pandemic Crew’s player development programming faced serious challenges including its defunding by former ownership, a potential sale, the “Save the Crew” movement and finally new ownership. Taha has been a player that the Crew has continued to believe in and develop. His development is a testament to him continuing to challenge himself and seek growth opportunities as much as it is a testament to the entire club growing and investing more heavily in player development. Crew has often had good young players get called into youth national teams, but now with the club infrastructure in place it feels like they are more prepared to provide players with the challenges and opportunities they need to keep developing – the biggest piece of that is the creation of Crew 2.
In September, Ohio Soccer Moms and Dads shared the impressive advancements and investments being made into player development by Columbus Crew SC, specifically the establishment of Crew 2. “In the recent past, Columbus guys like Wil Trapp, Alex Crognale, Aboubacar Keita and Keegan Hughes (a Crew Homegrown player who just signed with the first team this past week) all came through the Crew player development structure, but had to rely on the college path to bridge the gap between the academy and the first team in order to sign a homegrown contract. Crew can now provide these young talented local players opportunities to bridge the gap inside their player development pathway. That’s the most important thing for Taha’s next step – how he can continue to be challenged day in and day out.
Taha, although just 16 years old, has trained extensively with Crew 2. He has also had the opportunity to train with the first team, which demonstrates that the system really does provide a step up, and a tiered system of opportunities for players like Taha that need to continue to be challenged and who will rise to that challenge.
Taha is certainly a special talent and has been a key starter for the U17 Crew Academy team, even last year when he was technically an U16 player. This past summer in the MLS Next Cup final Taha scored the game’s opening goal in the 45th minute vs Philadelphia Union and was a key contributor in their matches against Atlanta United and Orlando City SC in earlier rounds. Spain shared that at the MLS Next Fest last month, “Taha started all three matches and featured in helping the U17s win the group with wins against Portland Timbers (1-0 win), Inter Miami CF (2-1 win) and CF Montreal (3-1 win).Taha also Drew the decisive penalty against Portland in the 90th minute to win the game 1-0 and scored two goals in the 3-1 win over CF Montreal.
Crew has been effective in identifying and developing young players. Under the leadership of Kelvin Jones and Marc Nicholls they are continuing to grow the program and create depth. Now with Crew growing their partnerships with local clubs, the goal is to replicate and even fast track these instances, like we’re seeing now with Taha. In addition to having Taha called into USYNT Camp, Kelvin Jones, Academy Director was also called in as an Assistant Coach; a tremendous accomplishment for Jones but also a huge benefit for Crew Academy and local youth players looking to play at the next level.