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Adu learned to kick a ball at the age of two; soon after, he was hitting rocks and refreshment bottles barefooted like many African soccer stars before him. Adu left Ghana with his family in 1997 after his mother won a lottery for a United States visa. Adu and his younger brother attended elementary school at Sequoyah Elementry School in Derwood, Maryland.
At age 13, Adu joined the Bradenton Academy, U.S. Soccer's premier youth residency program. At the age of 14, he signed a professional contract with Major League Soccer. He is now a resident of Potomac, Maryland in the United States and a U.S. citizen.
Adu played for the United States in two tournaments in 2003, the FIFA U-17 World Championship in Finland and the World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates. In order to allow Adu to play close to home, MLS assigned him to D.C. United, on November 18, 2003, working a deal with the Dallas Burn. Adu effectively became the first player selected in that draft, two months before it officially took place.
On April 3, 2004 Adu became the youngest professional sportsman in United States professional sports history since fourteen-year-old Fred Chapman played Major League Baseball in Philadelphia in 1887. On April 17, he scored his first professional goal in the 75th minute of a 3-2 away loss against the MetroStars.
Adu was in the starting lineup for the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final vs. Mexico. He was part of both USA goals.
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