Orlando City

Orlando City debut, national team experience highlight 'incredible' month for blossoming star Alejandro Granados 


A lot can happen in a month for a young athlete.

Alejandro Granados started May playing for Orlando City B, working his way at the MLS NEXT Pro level and trying to get better as a player.

Three days into the month, as he was getting ready for another training session at the Orlando Health Training Ground at Osceola Heritage Park, Granados received a text from his agent telling him to get on the phone with him right away.

Granados was being called up to Spain's under-17 national team.

"I was surprised, I was shocked, I didn't really have words," the 17-year-old Granados recalled to OrlandoCitySC.com this week.

"It was something that I've been wishing for basically my whole life. For it to come was a very special moment for me."

It was a massive moment for Granados, but it was just as important for the club he grew up playing for.

"We're super proud of Alejandro to be able to be part of such as special competition in a big national team with a lot of talent," said Ricardo Moreira, Orlando City's technical director and assistant general manager. "As a club, it's a recognition for us. It's an acknowledgment that the pathway we developed, the strategy that we've been following, has been working.

"When you see the call-up, and you see Orlando City B, a player from the Academy that is playing for OCB, and you have our name among the top teams of soccer in the world, It's really important for us to be there, and it just helps us feel a little bit more the way we already feel, which is we are part of a bigger club."

Granados joined the Lions' Academy after his family moved to the United States at age 9 from Alicante, Spain. He has spent the last six years playing with the Orlando City Academy squads, becoming a standout player and garnering interest from both the U.S. and Spanish youth national teams.

In 2022, he played a dozen matches with Orlando City B as an Academy player, earning an assist in the process. This season, he signed a full MLS NEXT Pro contract with OCB, marking his first foray into the professional game.

"The call-up showed that this Academy is really big, and it focuses a lot on player development," Granados said, "It proves that it's not a big boundary between the U.S. and Europe, that if we go over there, that we can compete and we can hold up against them."

Those few weeks starring with his home country was a dream for Granados. Not only did he start alongside players out of the Real Madrid and Barcelona academies, but Granados highlighted his tournament an absolute banger against Ireland in the quarterfinal of the UEFA Under-17 European Championship.

"Before the game, the coach had told us to shoot from outside the box," Granados said, "and I knew as soon as I got the ball, all I thought was, 'Go -- just shoot the ball and see what happens."

It was a goal that was in the works much longer than the camp with Spain. Granados had been working with his coaches in the Orlando City Academy to shoot from outside the box more often, since he has such proficiency from distance.

"I tried to (do it) in games, but there are games where I don't shoot, and they always tell me to shoot and shoot," Granados said.


Following Spain's defeat against France in the semifinals, Granados returned stateside to Florida in preparation for his next match with OCB.

Little did he know that another surprise was waiting for him: A short-term contract with the first-team side and an opportunity to earn his first taste of MLS.

"It's incredible. I think it's something that all players from the Academy, we all work towards," Granados said. "Hopefully, making our first-team debut, and hopefully signing for them, and I think it was just a very big accomplishment. But, it all comes from work from all the coaches, all the staff, to try and get me to this place. I think this is all from them."

Not even two weeks removed from his experiences, Granados was suiting up this past Saturday for the Lions and warming up in front of the 20,000-plus that were in attendance at Exploria Stadium.

As the Lions took their 2-0 lead into the late stages of the match, head coach Oscar Pareja motioned over to the players warming up, signaling for Granados to get ready to come in.

As the clock ticked over into the 90th minute, Granados made his MLS debut, coming in for Orlando's star designated player, Facundo Torres.

It was almost a fitting substitution, as the current star of the Lions makes way for the future.

"The purpose of bringing (Alejandro) was really just let him taste it," Pareja said. "He has been accumulating great experiences and the high, high, high level, and now, being part of the first team and playing and debuting, I know it's going to aggregate much more confidence for Ale. Our Academy can see him as a mirror, too -- to keep advancing and to keep searching and to keep looking for that opportunity. Now at least he showed us in those five, six minutes that he can be part of it, no problem."

"It was really special," Granados added. "I really have to thank Oscar and the coaching staff for giving me the opportunity to be on the bench and also have the trust in me to come in. It was something incredible, It's something that I couldn't have imagined a month ago."

It's hard to process that all of these experiences happened over the course of 30 days.

In fact, Granados hasn't even sat down to fully process it all himself.

"I think I've processed it a little bit, but not as much I think. When I made my debut, not everything came into my mind but after the game, everything started to really settle in, and I could really see what I had done."

Now, as the Academy product continues his professional journey, the sky is truly the limit.