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Cincy’s banking on homegrown youth, signing midfielder Gerardo ‘Dado’ Valenzuela through the 2026 season – with options for 2027 and 2028, as the team momentarily sits at the top of the Eastern Conference.

The 18-year-old is now the seventh player orange and blue Academy system for signing first-team deals. He would also be the fifth to do so who is currently on the roster.

“Dado is an exciting young player who has worked incredibly hard for this opportunity,” FC Cincinnati general manager Chris Albright said in a release. “He has an innate ability on the ball and continues to improve his defensive understanding of the game.

“His growth from our academy through to MLS Next Pro is a testament to all the work we’ve done in our player pathway and we look forward to his continued development with the first team.”

Dado has scored twice and provided an assist for FC Cincinnati 2 in 22 games for the MLS Next Pro club and is one of the most highly rated players on the team with an overall 7.29 FotMob rating.

He joined the academy in the fall of 2020 and played for the U-17 and U-19 teams.

“I am excited to sign my first professional contract with FC Cincinnati,” said Valenzuela. “It has been my dream to turn professional since I was little, and it feels even better to have achieved it with the support of this great team, my family and my coaches.”

Cinci will be hoping Dado joins and contributes to the senior team alongside 19-year-old forward Archimedes Ordóñez, who is currently with the Guatemalan team at the U-20 FIFA World Cup in Argentina.

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