Sacramento, Calif. – Earlier today, Sacramento Republic FC announced the addition of six local youth players from the club’s development academy to the first-team roster. The six players – Santiago Suarez, J.P. Cortez, Chase Tanon, Corey Hart, Fernando “Pepe” Venegas, and Jesus “Chuy” Sanchez, have all signed USL Academy Contracts, making them eligible to join Republic FC for USL Championship matches, pending league and federation approval. All six players are members of Republic FC’s U19 Academy squad.
“Our youth academy continues to produce top-level talent that further bolsters our first-team roster,” said Republic FC President and General Manager Todd Dunivant. “These guys have been excellent throughout preseason and are deserving of this opportunity to contribute to our professional team.”
Cortez, Venegas and Sanchez have signed their second USL Academy Contract with Republic FC. In 2021, all three were provided the opportunity to sign an Academy contract after training with the first team. Cortez and Venegas were awarded contracts following Republic FC’s U17s team making a run to thesemi-finals of the inaugural 2021 MLS Next Cup.
Cortez, an 18-year-old forward from Petaluma, joined Republic FC’s Academy in 2019 from North Coast FC of NorCal Premier. Venegas, a 17-year-old defender from Sacramento, has been with Republic FC’s academy since 2015 after spending time with Placer United of NorCal Premier. Sanchez, an18-year-old Madera native, joined the first team for training camp last season and was a member of the 18-man game-day roster 13 times during the 2021 season as the team’s backup goalkeeper.
Suarez, Tanon, and Hart are signing their first USL Academy contract with Republic FC. Sixteen-year-old Suarez,a defender from Rocklin, CA, started the 2021-22 season with Republic FC’s U17s, before joining the U19 squad mid-way through the campaign. He joined Sacramento’s academy in 2016, previously playing for Blues FC of NorCal Premier. Tanon, an 18-year-old forward from Lincoln, joined Republic FC’s academy in 2019 after featuring for Placer United’s youth club, and has committed to represent UC Davis next Fall. Both players were integral in Republic FC’s 2021 MLS Next Cup run, where it was the only club to advance multiple teams to the semifinal round.
Hart, a native of Tennessee by way of his home country of England, joined Republic FC on trial earlier this year after impressing the club’s technical staff at open tryouts. The 18-year-old midfielder joined Republic FC’s academy system earlier this year after spending time with Atlanta United FC’s academy. His contract will be completed upon ITC and federation approval.
Through the club’s partnership, two of the six academy players are currently enrolled at Elk Grove Charter School, allowing them the flexibility to continue their pathway as elite athletes while continuing their academic journey.
USL Academy contracts allow academy players the chance to play with the first team in professional matches while retaining their NCAA eligibility. Since its founding, Republic FC’s youth development academy has created a pipeline of youth players earning first-team opportunities, including current first-teamers Mario Penagos and Rafael Jauregui. Twenty-seven elite youth players have earned the opportunity to join the first team on a USL Academy Contract.
In addition to offering local players an opportunity to develop their skills against professionals, Republic FC’s academy is successfully launching players into top-flight leagues. Three academy members have been selected in the last two MLS SuperDrafts – Defender Nabi Kibunguchy, Defender Erik Centeno and Midfielder Giovanni Aguilar. And after two seasons with Republic FC’s first-team, academy standout Hayden Sargis was transferred to MLS side D.C. United.
Pending approval, the players on USL Academy contracts will be available for selection for this Saturday’s match at Heart Health Park. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. The match will be broadcast live in English and Spanish on Antenna TV 40.2 in the Sacramento Region, FOX40.com and on the FOX40 App, as well as streamed on ESPN+. Fans can purchase tickets to the match at SacRepublicFC.com/single-match-tickets.