Orlando City announced today that the club has signed Titusville native Thomas Williams to a first-team Homegrown Player contract guaranteed through 2024 with a club option in 2025. The 16-year-old Orlando City Development Academy product is the Lions’ 11th Homegrown Player signing and the club’s third this year. He’s also the team’s youngest Homegrown signing to date, at just 16 years and 10 months, surpassing Tommy Redding (17 years, one month, 15 days).
“We are really excited to get Thomas signed with the club,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “Now our youngest player in club history, he’s trained with the first team in the last two preseasons starting from when he was just 15. A left-footed defender that has great skill on the ball and untold potential, we believe Thomas will be an important addition to the club for a long time to come.”
Williams joined Orlando City’s academy in 2015 and played with Orlando City B during the 2020 USL League One season. With the Young Lions, Williams appeared in 13 matches (10 starts), logging 844 minutes. He has started five times for the development academy’s U-17 team in 2021, scoring one goal in his five starts.
What it Means for Orlando City
Williams is the eighth Homegrown Player on the Lions’ current roster, joining defender Michael Halliday; goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar; midfielders Raul Aguilera, Jordan Bender, and David Loera; and forwards Benji Michel and Wilfredo Rivera. This is another positive step, but ultimately these Homegrown Players need to get on the field and contribute during matches. Of the current Homegrown crop, only Michel has made a significant impact in meaningful games so far.
The Lions have a potential defender of the future in Williams, who is 6-foot-4 at only 16 years old. It’s not out of the question that he’ll add another inch or two to his frame. While it’s a bit of a fool’s errand to project what kind of player a 16-year-old will ultimately become, with that kind of size he could develop into a significant aerial presence, which is never a bad thing for a defender. Muzzi’s quote about Williams’s skill on the ball would indicate he is good with the ball at his feet, which is important to Oscar Pareja’s system of playing out of the back.
As someone who has been part of the system since 2015, Williams has a significant investment in, and attachment to, the club, which is also never a bad thing. Learning in training from the likes of Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, and Rodrigo Schlegel is also a nice bonus for the youngster.
Time will tell how Williams’ career will unfold, but the fact that the club is willing to invest a three-year contract in him now is a good indicator of how highly the technical staff rates him.