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Originally published Wednesday, May 11, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Sounders: Besagno brothers to face off as pros

It wasn't long ago that they were just kids having fun kicking a soccer ball. Now, it's their profession. It only seemed like yesterday...

Special to The Seattle Times

It wasn't long ago that they were just kids having fun kicking a soccer ball. Now, it's their profession.

It only seemed like yesterday when Barb Besagno was looking back at her baby-faced sons Jacob and Nik in the backseat as she drove them to numerous youth soccer games and practices.

She spent countless hours as the designated driver and soccer mom. She relishes those moments now that both Jacob and Nikolas make a living as rookies playing professional soccer. The mother of four gets to watch her only two sons play against each other competitively for the first time.

Nikolas Besagno, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 Major League Soccer draft at age 16, joins his Real Salt Lake teammates for the first time for an exhibition tonight against older brother, Jacob, and his Seattle Sounders. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Qwest Field.

"It's amazing to see what's happened," Barb Besagno said of her sons' ascent. "It's been Nik's dream and Jacob's dream to play soccer at the highest level. It's a proud moment to see two of your kids both on the same field getting to do what they love to do. It was just a little over a year ago that I was still driving Nik to club games."

Real Salt Lake at Seattle Sounders


Exhibition

When: Today, 7 p.m.

Where: Qwest Field

Records: Sounders 0-1-1, 1 point, tied for last place in 12-team USL First Division; Real Salt Lake, 1-3-2, 5 points, fourth in six-team Western Conference in 12-team Major League Soccer.

Radio: KKNW (1150 AM); KTFH (1680 AM) in Spanish.

Notes: The match was a result of first-year MLS franchise Real Salt Lake signing Sounders midfielder Leighton O'Brien. Most of the proceeds from this "friendly" and a small amount of cash were compensation for O'Brien inking a contract with Real Salt Lake. ... O'Brien, who was in the third year of contract with Seattle, last suited up for the Sounders in 2003 and was 2002 A-League MVP while in a Sounders uniform. ... Both teams are off to slow starts, with Real Salt Lake starting 0-3-1 on the road in its inaugural season. The Sounders are in the midst of a six-match homestand to open the season. ... Maple Valley 16-year-old Nik Besagno, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 MLS draft by Real Salt Lake, joins his club for the first time for this match and could be on the field at the same time as older brother, Jacob, a rookie defender for the Sounders. Nik played with Real Salt Lake's Reserve Division squad on April 27, but has yet to suit up with the big club because of his commitment to the U.S. U-17 national team.

Tickets: Call the Sounders' team office at 206-622-3415 or Ticketmaster at 206-628-0888.

Matt Massey

The echoes of bouncing soccer balls off the walls of the Besagnos' Maple Valley home still ring loud and clear. Older sister Tessa, now 19, and younger sister Julia, now 12, were also part of the soccer-crazed household.

"The walls of our house, we're not even going to try to fix them until the kids are all gone," said Barb Besagno, whose soccer field on the family's 3-½-acre lot always drew crowds of kids. "The main hallway was always a soccer field. There was always a game in the hall."

The game has since moved elsewhere.

Nikolas , called by Nik by family and closest friends, became the second-youngest player drafted by the MLS, following 14-year-old Freddy Adu's selection in 2004. On Monday, Nik flew back home and spent time with his family. As many as 100 family and friends could be at Qwest Field tonight to support the soccer-playing Besagnos.

"I can't wait to play in front of everyone I know," said Nik Besagno, who has spent most his time with the U.S. U-17 national team since being drafted in January. "I'm excited to get to know my teammates. And, I get to play against my brother, and I've never done that in a real game."

When John and Barb Besagno moved to Maple Valley, John wanted integrate his kids — all home-schooled by Barb's sister Andrea Skeel of Seattle — into the community socially. He chose soccer as the means to do that.

"My husband thought it was a good sport, and he didn't want them to play football," said Barb, whose husband is a pilot for United Airlines. "He always thought it was something good for the kids, and he got really involved. It's just something he always enjoyed and cared about.

"Our kids always go kick the ball around with him. He's always been available to do that."

Nik Besagno doesn't remember a day at home without soccer. All the siblings started playing at age 4 or 5.

"I just grew up around it," he said. "It was nonstop soccer every weekend. My brother started the earliest he could start, and so did I. My dad was my coach. He coached all of us until we were 15 or 16. My mom was there to support us and make every game she could.


Sounder Jacob Besagno is Nik's older brother.

"There was always someone kicking the ball in our house. You couldn't get away from it."

The game's magnitude kept growing for the Besagnos when rumors of Nik becoming MLS's top pick began to surface last October. Then, in December, came Jacob helping Seattle University to an NCAA Division II national championship.

Then Nik was taken by expansion Real Salt Lake with the top pick in the MLS draft in January. Nik has since balanced his U.S. U-17 national team commitment, private school in the U-17 accelerated residency program in Bradenton, Fla., and his rookie season as a pro.

"It's been an extremely interesting year," Barb said. "It's been quite a whirlwind. It's exciting they get to do what they want, but we miss them."

The older brother always had an influence on Nik, who will graduate from high school early on May 21. Now the playing field is bigger, and Jacob, 21, couldn't be happier for his little brother's big-time rise into the pro game.

"I was just extremely proud," said Jacob, who hopes to finish his marketing degree at Seattle University this spring. "My (Seattle U.) roommates and I got up early to watch the draft. We were just clapping. It was unreal to watch. You can't believe it's happening to your little brother."

It's unlikely the brothers, who both play a physical brand of soccer, will cross paths much with Nik playing a defensive midfield position and Jacob manning central defender duties. Both will likely be listed as substitutes.

Mom would just as soon have no team win tonight's match.

"I hope it ends in a draw," Barb Besagno said with a laugh. "It might be easier that way."

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