They’re calling Freddy Adu the LeBron of soccer.

I mean, yeah, this 14-year-old soccer phenom is amazing, but is that a fair comparison? Can he outshine the brightest young star in American sports? Can we just lump together two young uber-athletes? I wonder what they might have to say about that …

LeBron: What’s up, son. I’m only 18 and I’m a superstar in The League . but I’m sure you knew that. Everybody knows that.

Freddy: Oh yeah? I’m only 14, and I’m going to be the youngest person to play a major American sport professionally since Fred Chapman. You don’t remember him? Oh, maybe that’s because he played in1887. And by the way, Darko is younger than you are. And he doesn’t even play.

LeBron: Yeah, well my high school team sold out more games than the Cavs did last year. I sold out the Staples Center – all 20,000 seats. You think they came to see anyone else on my team?

Freddy: Well, just last year I led the U-14 Potomac Cougars team to the National Championships. Hey man, when I was only 12 – yeah, 12 – Interpol in Italy offered me $750,000. I’ve rejected offers from Manchester United, Chelsea and PSV Eindhoven. I’ve already played in the U-17 World Cup, committed to compete in the Under-20 World Cup later this month and will likely play in the 2004 Olympics and 2006 World Cup. But you’re playing on the Olympic team too, right? Oh wait, maybe in 2008.

LeBron: Yeah, well, umm, at least I graduated high school. And I got 100 lbs and a foot on you.

Freddy: Actually, I’m going to graduate high school before I set foot on the pitch in the MLS. Maybe that had something to do with me skipping a grade in middle school.

LeBron: Aight, that’s cool, but put your money where your mouth is. I inked a three-year, $12.96 mil deal with the Cavs, not to mention over $100 mil in endorsements. What now? You should check out lebronjames.com, while you’re at it.

Freddy: Well, ah, um, freddyadu.com is in the works . And I signed a four-year deal with a two-year option for *cough* $280,000. Come on – my deal with Nike is worth over $1 million – the company’s highest endorsement for an individual soccer player.

LeBron: Well alright, you’ve done some pretty cool stuff. I’m not trying to player hate or anything like that.

Freddy: Me neither. Maybe we’re more different than I thought.

LeBron: Yeah. You’re probably right.

The truth is, they’re both awesome.

LeBron – the hype and the real guy – is awesome. Nearly everybody likes him, no matter how much they want to hate him. You can’t deny it: he’s damn good at basketball. Plus, he passes the ball well (who is known for being unselfish anymore, for that matter) and he’s mature.

The scary thing, though, is that Freddy is just as mature – so mature that people are wondering if he really is 14.

Fourteen? We all thought 18 was crazy with LeBron, and we’re talking about 14 now? To be able to compete – excel for that matter – among men who are 30 years older than yourself is unbelievable. It’s not that LeBron isn’t just as extremely young and exceptional for his age. But Freddy is obscenely young. Has he hit puberty yet? He still needs his parent’s signature to go to the zoo.

Thinking about it more, you really can’t compare the two.

Different sports, different freakishly young ages, different marketing .

Ahh, different marketing.

That’s what makes them the most starkly different. 1 million compared to 100 million. Holy freaking goodness, LeBron is loaded. Freddy is undoubtedly rich, too. But LeBron is a marketing guru’s dream come true. His jersey was the top-seller before he played a minute in the NBA. He wears number 23 for crying out loud.

Plus, in America, basketball in and of itself is so much more marketable than soccer. Soccer is the world’s most popular sport but, even as a “football” elitist, I know it doesn’t sell here. 106-82 sells. 0-0 doesn’t.

So, as fun as it was, maybe comparing Freddy with LeBron was a little shallow.

Maybe we should compare him to Mia Hamm, or Pele; the greatest player in the sport today, the greatest soccer player of all time.

Oh, wow. That’s pretty awesome, too.

Erin Brown can be reached at brownthehoya.com. RUNNING THE OPTION appears every Tuesday.

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