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Republic FC signs Academy products Blake Willey, Chibuike Ukaegbu to pro deals

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 11/17/23, 3:03PM EST


16-year-old talents become seventh and eighth players to sign professional contracts coming through development system

Sacramento Republic FC has signed defender Chibuike “Chibi” Ukaegbu and midfielder Blake Willey to professional contracts ahead of the 2024 USL Championship season. | Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sacramento Republic FC announced on Friday the club had signed two standout players from its Youth Development Academy to their first professional contracts. Midfielder Blake Willey and defender Chibuike “Chibi” Ukaegbu will be added to the club’s First Team roster for the 2024 USL Championship season pending league and federation approval.

Willey and Ukaegbu become the seventh and eighth players to rise through the club’s youth system and sign a professional contract with their hometown club.

“Today is a very exciting day for youth soccer in our region,” said Republic FC President and General Manager Todd Dunivant. “It’s important to us to advance local products through the ranks, and today’s signings are reflective of our Academy’s continuous hard work developing elite talent. Both Chibi and Blake have very bright futures ahead of them and will be important pieces as we complete for silverware in 2024 and beyond.”

“Blake and Chibi each worked incredibly hard on the field this past season and proved they fit in with our First Team squad,” said Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs. “Their signing is a great example of the character and talent within our club and the Sacramento region, and it is exciting to see them take the next step to begin their professional careers.”


Republic FC’s signing of Da’vian Kimbrough – and his subsequent USL Championship debut to become the youngest debutant in league history – turned heads, but the club’s signings of Blake Willey and Chibi Ukaegbu are a continuation of the club’s commitment to player development in its outstanding academy system.

Sacramento Republic FC midfielder Blake Willey was called into the United States U-17s training camp in Oregon in October and is age-eligible for the next two editions of the FIFA Men's U-20 World Cup. | Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

Willey is on the youth national team radar – he has received call-ups to the United States U-16s and was in the secondary U-17s squad that convened in Portland in October while the primary squad was in Brazil ahead of the current FIFA U-17 World Cup. As a 2007-age group player, he’s eligible for the next two cycles for the United States Men’s U-20 National Team and will be a prospect to watch closely.

Sacramento Republic FC defender Chibuike “Chibi” Ukaegbu joins the side's First Team having made 60 appearances for the club in the youth ranks. | Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

The same can be said for Ukaegbu, who has spent the past two seasons in the club’s academy system. As a defender, the core group led by recently re-signed Conor Donovan could serve as no better mentor for his development in addition to potentially earning his first minutes with the First Team next year. Also a 2007-age group player, Ukaegbu earned an invitation to the Fall YNT Regional ID Center in San Jose and should have the U.S. Men’s U-20 squad as his goal in the next two cycles.

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