From King's Lynn to the US national team: The story of Dom Dwyer and his remarkable 10-year rise

From England's non-league to America's top-flight

As kids, most of us start to realise pretty soon whether or not we're destined for a life in professional football. You could be a late bloomer of course, realising your potential in your mid-teens and possibly even later - queue some sort of pun referencing Jamie Vardy and his rise to international stardom through non-league football. The vast majority who are good enough though waste little time waiting to be scouted by professional clubs.

The very best youngsters get snapped up by academies, where their skills are carefully nurtured and by 16, they're ready for their first pro contract and life all goes accordingly. For many however, professional deals do not come and because education has taken a back seat due to the assumption that a life in football will do just fine, thousands of kids are left with limited options should they get released from their respective clubs at a young age.

Dominic Dwyer, the Sussex-born striker who spent six years in Norwich City's youth system between 2000-2006, experienced rejection when he was released by the Canaries 13 years ago, and dropped into England's non-league pyramid with Staines Town. The forward, then aged just 16, lasted just one season at the Surrey outfit, before moving to King's Lynn - the club he had begun his footballing career before joining Norwich eight years earlier.

Drafted in because the Norfolk side were a striker short for their game against Grantham FC, Dwyer lead the line and scored four goals on his debut. The rest was history for Dwyer at King's Lynn; he went on to establish himself in the first team, becoming a pivotal figure for the club as they looked to climb up England's non-league ladder. A trial to earn a scholarship at the Tyler Junior College in Texas in 2009 was to completely change Dwyer's life for the better, however.

The young forward was accepted onto the scholarship scheme, and made his way across the Pond for a fresh challenge in America. Dwyer won two national championships and earned the coveted National Junior College Player of the Year Award having scored 37 goals for his new side as a sophomore. After two years playing for Tyler College, where Dwyer left having netted 52 goals in 42 appearances, the now 28-year-old moved to the University of South Florida, where he spent a season playing for the South Florida Bulls in 2011.

Sporting Kansas City sign British import

16 goals in 21 games saw scouts sit up and take notice of Dwyer, and before long he was included in the MLS SuperDraft, selected by Sporting Kansas City to represent them in the forthcoming 2012 season. Dwyer's dream had become a reality; he was back in the professional game, but little did he know the scale of success he'd have in the USA.

A staggered opening season with Kansas, which saw game time limited, meant that in order to gain first team experience he'd have to briefly drop down a league. Dwyer joined United Soccer League (USL) club Orlando City on loan in 2013 and made an instant impact in the American third-tier, scoring two and assisting one in his opening three games for the up-and-coming club. His first career hat-trick came against Antigua Barracuda in a resounding 7-2 win for Orlando, and just a month later, the England-born starlet scored his 14th goal of the campaign, making him the all-time record goalscorer in the USL Pro.

Understandably, Dwyer was recalled to Kansas City and took little time registering his first goal in the MLS, finding the net in a 3-2 defeat against New York Red Bulls. Throughout the following five seasons, Dwyer would go on to score 57 goals for Sporting Kansas City in 128 games, finishing as the club's top goalscorer for three consecutive seasons between 2014-2016. Dwyer was the talk of the league, everyone was astonished by what they were seeing from this once unknown striker from the east of England.

Most expensive player in MLS history

Dwyer's exploits at Sporting Kansas earned him credidation as one of the MLS' most sought after players, and in 2017 he moved to Orlando City - the MLS club born out of the USL team that he had spent a brief spell on loan at in 2013.

The move cost Orlando City around £1.2 million, making him the most expensive player in MLS history, eclipsing the previous highest fee paid when Kevin Molino joined Minnesota United from Orlando City for £540,000 the same year. Orlando's chief executive, Alex Leitao, said that the move was a 'no-brainer' as Dwyer already knew the league inside out from his time spent at Kansas.

“He’s an All-Star, he’s a top scorer, he already knows the league, he doesn’t need time to get adapted — not with the city, not with the team, not with the league — so, for us it was a no-brainer.”

41 league goals in his opening two seasons with Orlando City has already seen Dwyer become the clubs all-time third-top goalscorer - just seven shy of Brazilian legend Kaka, who bagged 25 during his time with the Florida club. At 28, Dwyer is expected to become Orlando's all-time leading goalscorer - he currently finds himself just 26 goals behind current leader Cyle Larin, the Canada international now plying his trade in Turkey with Besiktas.

Dwyer signed a three-year contract extension with Orlando City last January, contracting him to the club until 2021.

International call-up

Having departed English shores for America in 2009, Dwyer gained permanent citizenship after eight years of residence in the U.S in March of 2017. Just three months later he was called up to the U.S national squad for the forthcoming 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, scoring in a 2-1 win over Ghana on his debut. He followed his opening strike with a second goal in as many matches against Panama - suddenly, everyone knew that Dwyer could cut it on the main stage.

From humble beginnings in the quiet market town of King's Lynn, to becoming the most expensive player in MLS history, Dom Dwyer's rise to the top in America is not only impressive, but also extremely refreshing to see. Norman Cesar, the secretary of the recently rebranded King's Lynn Town FC, admitted that he always felt his former striker was destined for greatness.

"I'm really amazed that no one picked him up in this country," said Cesar, talking to the Telegraph in 2017.

"We could always see the potential in him at King's Lynn. Obviously we were disappointed from a club point of view to lose him but so pleased with what he has achieved. It's a great bit of publicity for us.

"He was always a workaholic in training. He was always a bit of a joker but when it came to football he was so, so serious.

"He was a wonderful chap, he mixed in with every one, was totally professional. He had no airs or graces, just one of the lads.

"We were ever so pleased when he broke into the first team but that was just five or six months before he went off to America," he added.

Dwyer's left-field switch to the US was the making of his career; a player released from the clutches of a professional football club aged 15, it could have been easy for him to settle for a life in England's non-league, but he took a leap of faith ten years ago and is now massively reaping the rewards.

Dwyer is now married to U.S woman's international Sydney Leroux, who also plays for Orlando in the National Woman's Soccer League. The couple are currently expecting their second child together, due to be born in the summer; with the genes from two professional footballers as parents, don't be surprised to see Dwyer Jnr. tearing it up in the MLS in years to come.

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