Cole Bassett wants to play soccer in the top leagues in Europe, compete against the world’s best players and win some of the most famous trophies.
But there is one thing he wants to cross off first: win a trophy for the Colorado Rapids.
The 20-year-old homegrown product had an opportunity to join Portuguese club Benfica earlier this week. Instead, he turned down the offer in order to chase an MLS Cup with the surging Rapids.
“It was very tough,” Bassett said of his decision. “I mean it’s a Champions League club there. They got a rich history. You watch those teams when you’re growing up (and) you see all the players that have come out of there.”
Benfica is one of the top teams in Portugal and a regular participant in the UEFA Champions League. Among the players it has developed and later sold: Atletico Madrid star João Félix ($140 million); Manchester City’s Rúben Dias ($75 million) and Ederson ($44 million); and Wolverhampton’s Raúl Jiménez ($42 million), Ángel di María and Renato Sanches.
The offer from Benfica indicated Bassett would play games for the B-squad while training with the first team — a path many young stars at Benfica take.
“(Benfica) produces players,” Basset said. “And to be fair, most of them went through Benfica B and then into the first team. And I think it was put out there that’s probably where I would have started games (on the B-team) and then train with the first team. But that was kind of a deciding factor for me. … If it was first team I think it would have probably been a no-brainer for me.”
After conversations that lasted two months, Bassett turned down the offer Monday to finish the season with the Rapids, who are in third place in the MLS Western Conference and a contender for the Supporter’s Shield and MLS Cup.
Bassett spoke with his agent, family members and current and former teammates to get input. A conversation with Rapids head coach Robin Fraser was pivotal.
“He’s a good judge of how good I am as a player and where I want to go,” Bassett said. “He knows that I want to go there and he wants to help me get there. But also at the same time, he wants to help me make that decision because I think he wants me to go to the right place in the right environment.”
Fraser has had a front row seat watching Bassett grow over the past two years.
He was hired in 2019, around the same time Bassett graduated from the team’s academy and began starting games for the Rapids. They have been interlinked together as the Rapids have risen from an MLS afterthought to a contender.
“When he first came in, I was a pretty smart player but I didn’t understand the space as well as I do now and I don’t think I was as effective or impactful on the field as I am now as well,” Bassett said. “… At this point I’m still growing every single day. I’m still doing stuff out at training and trying to improve on my game and I’m still learning here.”
Fraser often preaches about the team unity, and the young forward’s decision to finish this season in Colorado is another example of the strong bond being developed.
“It’s a testament to this character,” teammate Keegan Rosenberry said. “And I think we’ve talked about it as a club here and what he continues to say about us is that we care about each other, we want to play for each other and it’s just another example. Cole wants to be here. He wants to play for the guys around him.”
If Bassett keeps improving, another overseas opportunity is sure to come. And an MLS Cup might be waiting, too.
“Every year that I’ve been here, we’ve gotten better progressively over the years and I think it’s kind of set up for (a trophy) this year,” Bassett said.
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