Canadian soccer has its superstar, and his name is Alphonso Davies.
The Bayern Munich full-back is, by all accounts, a game-changer; a player that has put Canada on the football map while playing at the highest level imaginable.
But in this sport, there are plenty of superstars and plenty of countries that can claim to have one of their own. The key, then, is to build on that game-changing moment by creating a conveyor belt of talent that continues to roll on and on.
Canada's conveyor belt is in its early days, and there is still much work to be done to truly build it out. But, as Davies makes waves in Munich, another bright young talent is emerging in Toronto, one that is threatening to smash records the Bayern star established before making his mega-move to Germany.
That young talent is Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, the 16-year-old Toronto FC product that has already been called up to Canada's senior national team. With his invite in January, Marhsall-Rutty became the youngest-ever call-up by the men's team, breaking Davies' record by just five days.
And, like Davies before him, Marshall-Rutty is already earning overseas interest before truly establishing himself as a professional. Sources tell Goal that Manchester United, Juventus, Manchester City, Porto and, coincidentally, Bayern have all had their eye on the teenager's rise.
In Marshall-Rutty, those clubs see a talented young wide midfielder with technical skills far beyond his years. They see a player that is in the process of making the leap from youth star to senior contributor for both club and country.
And they also see a player that has all of the characteristics necessary to become Canadian soccer's next top export, a player that is seen by several in North America as the most talented young player in the region.
"I'd say to get compared to [Davies], obviously I was honoured, but I don't really look at breaking history as the youngest player," Marshall-Rutty tells Goal in an exclusive interview.
"He's at Bayern Munich and he's achieved so much, obviously. He paved the path for young players like me, but I just think the most important thing when you're younger is just to stay focused on the soccer side. All that young history stuff doesn't really matter at the end of the day."
Marshall-Rutty certainly has plenty of time to worry about making history, with his career still very much in its infancy having played just 18 minutes of first-team soccer with Toronto FC.
His first-ever soccer tryout came just eight years ago, at which Marshall-Rutty turned up ready to play in basketball shoes. But, by the time Marshall-Rutty was 12, his youth career had taken off as he shone at the Dallas Cup against La Liga opposition.
By the time he was 14, he was a professional player, having signed for Toronto FC's second team. By 15, he was the club's youngest-ever first-team signing and, by 16, its youngest-ever debutant.
In just a few short years, Marshall-Rutty has gone from youth team player to prospect, from prospect to starlet. And, if all goes to plan, he could certainly go from starlet to first-team regular for Toronto FC in the coming months.
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“Jahkeele is the top player in his age group across Canada and the U.S, and he is among the top young players in all of North America," Toronto FC GM Ali Curtis said upon signing Marshall-Rutty in 2020. "He is an incredibly talented young man. While he’s only 15, he plays the game in a very mature way.
"He had interest from many top clubs in Europe. It’s important that we are both patient and aggressive with Jahkeele’s development, but he has the potential to be an incredible player moving forward."
As can be expected, Marshall-Rutty is still a work in progress, but he has been blessed with some incredible gifts.
His touch is fantastic, especially for his age, with Marshall-Rutty able to control a ball at pace with minimal effort. Technically, Marshall-Rutty plays beyond his years. And, according to Canada coach John Herdman, he has the "game-breaking personality" of a player that wants to dominate every training session or game he takes part in.
For Herdman, though, the most impressive thing that Marshall-Rutty has is that mythical X-factor. To put it bluntly, Marshall-Rutty simply has it, whatever it is.
"A lot of footballers, they have very similar technical abilities," Herdman tells Goal, "but the ability to do that in big moments under pressure, that's what I've seen in the most recent camp.
"He scored a goal, and we were laughing because everyone was describing it as 'a Van Basten'. He scores a volley after the ball dropped over his left shoulder in training, and this is a 16-year-old in that environment with a lot of senior players watching. A lot of players would have tried to take a touch or do something to maybe not take that risk.Toronto FC
"He was able to impose himself in his first training camp, and show those X-Factor skills that he has, and allow his personality to come through."
Herdman got his first look at the then-15-year-old Marshall-Rutty at Canada Soccer's NEX-PRO Integration Camp, which saw Toronto FC's youth teams participate in a series of training sessions alongside national team coaches. It did not take long for Marshall-Rutty to catch Herdman's eye, and his national team career has surged ever since.
"When I signed when I was 15 years old, this was the goal," Marshall-Rutty says of his debuts for both club and country, "and I'm so proud that it happened, but I'm not saying I didn't expect it.
"When it happened I just tried to stay grounded and humble, and I'm just trying to keep working hard, but I'd say I worked hard all my life for this moment to come. For it to come so quick, obviously, I think it's a good thing."
The other good thing about it is that European clubs are watching. Marshall-Rutty admits that he does hope to head to Europe at some point, even if he is honoured to represent his local roots with Toronto FC.
He is unable to make that move until he is 18 and, in the meantime, it is vital to his development that he secures a consistent first-team place with TFC in the upcoming MLS season.
"Your career will always tell a story and his is a positive one," Herdman says of Marshall-Rutty. "I think these next three years, that young man needs exposure. He needs exposure to the next level environment, whether that's men's football in MLS or pushing to the next levels, the top levels of European football.Canada Soccer/Goal
"But I'd love to see him take that step in MLS this year. It's always tough with him being so young and the challenges coaches have with decisions they've got to make in risking playing young players, but I think he's ready to take a step this year and, hopefully, pick up some valuable minutes in men's football."
If that does happen, and if the European megaclubs continue to monitor his progress, then Marshall-Rutty could be Toronto FC's first massive sale.
He also could be Canadian soccer's next star, the leader of a generation inspired by Davies' rise to European superstardom. And, with the World Cup set to be held on Canadian soil in 2026, Marshall-Rutty's rise could not be coming at a better time for a country that could have a core of Davies, Marshall-Rutty and Lille star Jonathan David leading the attack in front of a global audience.
"Canadian soccer is really on the up," Marshall-Rutty says, "and I'm so happy our country's hosting the World Cup because we're finally getting the recognition from the whole world that we can play too, just like how, say, the Americans are getting recognition.
"So for a player like Alphonso to go and do that really shows that we have talent coming up. We just need good coaching and we just need to keep developing. So, Alphonso doing good is naturally good for the youth.
"For Canadian soccer players, it's a great time in this generation to be a young athlete like me, because, obviously, you have Jonathan David, Alphonso Davies and Jonathan Osorio that have proven to the world that Canadians can play soccer too.
"I think the biggest thing for me is that I'm in the perfect time to show the world what I can do, because all those players are doing it too."
Players like Davies have paved the way. Now, it is up to Marshall-Rutty to create his own story as he looks to become Canada's next star.