Steve Nesius, Associated Press
Freddy Adu, 14, has signed to play professional soccer.

WASHINGTON — Spurning overtures from some of the world's greatest clubs, 14-year-old American soccer phenom Freddy Adu signed a six-year deal with MLS. He will join D.C. United next season.

Adu is expected to become the youngest player for a U.S. professional top-level team in more than 100 years — since 14-year-old Fred Chapman debuted in major league baseball in 1887.

"He is widely considered the best young soccer player in the world," commissioner Don Garber said Tuesday. "And we believe that playing in his home country, in MLS, will further develop him as a player and, most importantly, as a person."

Adu will be formally introduced today at a news conference in New York.

The signing is a coup for MLS, especially after Adu's extensive courtship by Manchester United and other blue chip European teams. He chose to remain near his home in Potomac, Md., where he and his family have lived since immigrating from Ghana in 1997.

"We wanted to allow Freddy to pursue his dreams and develop his God-given talents," said Adu's mother, Emelia. "As he makes this next step at the age of 14, it was best for Freddy to stay in America and sign with MLS."

Adu will be a Project-40 player — an MLS program designed to accelerate the development of top young Americans. He will be eligible for January's draft.

The Dallas Burn hold the first overall pick in the draft, but they agreed to trade the selection to United as a stipulation for Adu's signing.

"They get that pick, and we get a major player allocation," Burn spokesman Chris Ward said.

Adu's development has been watched closely for years. He was a high school All-American as a freshman and attended the U.S. Under-14 boys' national team camp in 2001. He began playing for the U.S. Under-17 team last year at age 13, scoring 22 goals in 2002 and a team-leading 29 goals in 46 matches this year.

He led the U.S. team to the quarterfinals of the Under-17 world championships in Finland in August, scoring three goals in the opening match and the winning goal in the second game.

Adu occasionally trains with D.C. United and will be a welcome boost for a team that struggled to score goals this season. United made the playoffs for the first time in four years, but were eliminated in the first round by a pair of shutouts against Chicago.

"I grew up watching MLS, and I look forward to the challenge," Adu said. "This league will help me develop as a player, and I hope I can leave my mark as soon as possible."