The last four years have been a very different high school experience for Christian McKeown.
While his sisters were playing soccer for Mexico High School, the area native was competing at the prep level on a very different pitch. Specifically, McKeown was attending the Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy, which also calls itself the American International University in London and is a boarding school in England that accepts players from all across the planet and not only gives them a high school education, but teaches them the game of soccer as if it were a skilled trade.
"On the pitch Christian is very athletic with a good body shape to play in the modern era and demands of the modern footballer," said Head Academy Coach Rob Jones. "He is very diverse and can play in many positions within an attacking shape. As he is athletic he has good pace in order to support the striker, he also has a keen eye for goal."
According to the schools website, riasasoccer.org, McKeown attended Richmond International for four years and last played for RIASA West in 2017-18 as a Central Attacking Midfielder. He earned RIASA First-Team Honors all four years he was there starting with Eccleshill United in 2014-15 and against Burnley F.C., Motherwell F. C., Rotherham United F. C., Halifax Town, Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley F.C., Bradford City U20’s and Leicester City Internationals in 2015/16 and 2016/17.
"What the future holds, Christian is very studious and digests all information well. He recovers from disappointment in a positive confident manner," Jones said. "There are lots of opportunities out there with the influx of talented Scandinavian countries becoming familiar with RIASA and the players we produce."
Even though McKeown's future might be up in the air, this summer he documented many of his exploits since returning to the area on youtube. Just prior to that he was chosen to be the student speaker at his graduatkion from RIASA and spoke of the many roles he played during his four years at the school.
"Christian is in a good position as everyone in the RIASA academy. The opportunities to play in these countries is rapidly growing," said Jones. "But as every footballer would tell you, being in the right place at the right time is vital."
While it might seem unusual for a 15-year old to find his way into a summer tour in West Yorkshire, England at Woodhouse Grove all the way back in 2014, that's what it took to make this opportunity a reality, so that's what McKeown did. This time of year much of the staff and coaches are on leave, so getting any kind of response was unlikely. Fortunately, there was one individual who did stay on campus, so even though the school doesn't keep yearly stats, there was information to be had.
"RIASA is the most prestigious collegiate soccer academy in the world. We provide student athletes with the unique opportunity to earn a dual accredited American and UK degree whilst developing as a football player in the home of the sport," said Sue Stead of RIASA. "RIAUL is the first and only University to achieve dual degree awarding powers granted by Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) Privy Council, which are accredited through the US State of Delaware by the Middle States Commission of Higher Education, UK Open University and the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA)."
When you look beyond the bravado to what's actually required to be a part of this program, that includes the Richmond and the American International University In London academic standard of a 2.5 grade point average. Players also don't have to be part of a team to apply. Individuals will be considered.
"The program is open to all students who wish to pursue an American/UK Degree while playing in a top quality soccer academy with professional coaching and playing opportunities against professional youth academy and reserve teams," Stead said. "Students should be of a good playing standard either coming from a top premier select program, or regional or state player."
This year RIASA posted on its Facebook that it had so many applications that it had to add a sixth team to its lineup. According to his profile at riasisoccer.org McKeown in 2016-17 had seven goals and two assists. This came after a 2015-16 season that featured him winning Man of the Match for scoring four goals in one game on his way to charting 14 scores for the entire season.
"The program is open to those who are willing to learn and improve their game and those looking for a student experience that is different from one that they can gain while studying and playing elsewhere. Students can attend one of the RIASA on the road ID camps throughout America and the UK, where they will be assessed by the RIASA Head Coach, or if unable to attend an ID camp forward a video footage."
Also listed on McKeown's RIASA profile is that, "Christian played a full season with the SWFL Adrenaline in the 2016 PDL season and trained for a week with the St. Louis FC U23’s during their pre-season for the 2017 PDL season. He holds the FA Level 2 coaching license, and the USSF Level D coaching license."