Molham Babouli’s recent signing with Toronto FC marks the first time a player has gone through the full player pathway system created by the club, starting from the Kia TFC Academy, to Toronto FC II, up to the first team.
“This is huge news for the Academy, from U-10 through to the Senior Academy team,” said Michael Stefano, former Senior Kia TFC Academy Head Coach who coached Babouli when he was with the Academy.
“The young players know that there’s a true pathway that’s been tested and proven,” added Stefano, who is currently the Head Coach of the U-13 Kia TFC Academy team.
Babouli now joins Ashtone Morgan, Chris Mannella, Jay Chapman, Quillan Roberts, and Jordan Hamilton on the list of current players that have graduated from the Kia Toronto FC Academy and are signed to first team contracts.
“The only way you can really convince the young players that there’s a chance to make it to the first team through the Academy is with precedent, and with Mo and guys like Chris Mannella you have that precedent,” Stefano explained.
The now 23-year-old first burst onto the scene in 2014 after joining the Kia Toronto FC Academy from Mississauga-based Dixie Soccer Club.
With the Senior Kia TFC Academy team, Babouli would dominate the inaugural season of League1 Ontario.
The Mississauga native was named the league’s Most Valuable Player and was awarded the Golden Boot following a 26-goal output in all competitions.
“He was a pro from the first time he hit the pitch,” Stefano asserted.
“He’s very dynamic, he’s technically gifted, he’s a competitor. It was more about consistency. Performing at a consistent level, training at a high level, but you could see the first team potential was there.”
It was clear that he was ready for the next level.
In 2015 the young forward appeared in 20 matches for Toronto FC II, gaining extensive professional experience that only aided in his development. He also made an appearance with the first team in a mid-season friendly against English Premier League side Sunderland.
His performance with the USL team was enough to earn a spot on Toronto FC’s 2016 preseason roster.
It was only a few weeks ago that I wrote on Babouli’s preseason with Toronto FC. He talked about making the most out of the opportunities he was given.
Babouli finished preseason tied for second with Jordan Hamilton – behind Sebastian Giovinco – in preseason scoring with three goals, including a goal in both matches against MLS powerhouses LA Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls.
Talk about making the most out of an opportunity.
With Head Coach Greg Vanney and co. opting for a 4-3-3 formation this season, it’s likely that Babouli will slot into a wide attacking position when called upon.
It’s only been one season but Toronto FC has already reaped the rewards of having Toronto FC II in the player pathway system.
The U-23 Canadian international is just one of many coming through the ranks at Toronto FC.