By Jack Lebow
Former UMBC soccer star Jon Bell always dreamed of playing soccer at the highest level in North America. Despite having an offer to attend the University of Virginia out of high school, Bell took a more unorthodox approach in cementing himself as a standout for the Retrievers.
The 23-year-old defender out of Silver Spring, Md., always had a love and passion for soccer. Knowing from an early age that playing the sport was something Bell wanted to do professionally, he ultimately achieved his childhood dream.
Bell’s life changed forever when he was drafted by the San Jose Earthquakes with the 38th overall pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft. Bell’s draft rights were later traded to the New England Revolution.
In eight games for the New England Revolution, Bell has posted one goal and one assist. He scored his first goal in MLS against New York City FC June 19:
Bell was elated to finally live out the moment.
“It was a great feeling,” Bell said on Glenn Clark Radio June 30. “After the ball left my head, I looked to make sure I was onside. I looked at the linesman. He was running back toward the middle of the field, and I knew that it was in. For a minute I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t even know what to do, I just started running and screaming.”
Bell played at UMBC from 2016-2019, posting one goal and eight assists in 56 games. When he arrived on UMBC’s campus during his freshman year, he understood it was not going to be an easy task to make a name for himself, but his dream of playing in the MLS pushed him through any adversity he faced.
“Even my freshman year at UMBC, the goal was for me to get to the next level,” Bell said. “I got the opportunity to play with the first team [with the DC United Academy], even when I was playing in the summer league, and I played really well [and] kept up with those guys. … I knew I could play at the next level.”
Bell’s future seemed very bright as he looked to continue his soccer career at the University of Virginia. However, he quickly realized this opportunity of playing collegiate soccer for the Cavaliers was fading away.
“It’s a top school and I just couldn’t afford it,” Bell said. (Division I soccer programs have 9.9 scholarships per year.)
Shortly thereafter, UMBC soccer coach Pete Caringi reached out to Bell’s coach at DC United and mentioned that he had an open roster spot. Bell accepted Caringi’s offer and became a Retriever.
“I didn’t even visit the campus before I committed to go there,” Bell said. “My first time coming on campus was the first day of preseason when we moved in.”
His decision to attend UMBC turned out to be the best choice he could have ever made. This gave him the opportunity to blossom into the player he would soon become and was the next chapter in reaching his ultimate dream.
“Going there I knew UMBC was not the UVA’s or the Stanford’s [of the world], but it is a really strong program with a lot of committed people in there who value all the players and students there,” Bell said.
A major reason why Bell succeeded at such a high level is because of his mindset, which he said is to “make yourself be known and worry about the things you can control.”
Bell has paved the way for the future of UMBC men’s soccer and has set the standard for what it takes to be great on and off the field. Individuals across the country who continue their soccer career for the Retrievers will look to become the next Jon Bell.
“It’s doable and it’s possible and you don’t have to go to the top-notch schools — you can do it from anywhere,” Bell said.
For more from Bell, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Mark Brown