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Las Vegas Lights FC signs College Cup champion Shawn Smart

By Staff, 02/26/24, 4:00PM EST


Talented 20-year-old joins club after helping Clemson earn NCAA Division I title last December

Las Vegas Lights FC has signed defender Shawn Smart, who turns pro after helping Clemson University claim the NCAA Division I College Cup last December. | Photo courtesy Clemson University Athletics

LAS VEGAS – Las Vegas Lights FC announced on Monday the club had signed talented young defender Shawn Smart ahead of the 2024 USL Championship season. The transaction is pending league and federation approval.

Smart joins the Lights having most recently competed for Clemson University, where this past fall he helped the Tigers claim the NCAA Division I College Cup with their victory against the University of Notre Dame at Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville, Ky. The 20-year-old has made 36 appearances for the Tigers across two seasons in the college ranks, recording two goals and three assists, and made 21 starts in the past campaign, logging 1,705 minutes, good for sixth on the squad.

“Shawn Smart has shown in his talent as a full back in two seasons at Clemson,” said Lights Sporting Director Gianleonardo Neglia. “With our aim to build a squad that features high-quality young players that can succeed on the field immediately with the potential to raise their level over time, Shawn is an ideal fit for the group we are putting together for this season.”

A native of Apopka, Fla., Smart competed at the renowned Montverde Academy and was part of the United States U-17 Men’s National Team pool before joining Clemson. During the No. 9-seed Tigers’ run to the College Cup this past fall, he scored a brilliant half-volleyed finish in the 37th minute to lift the side to a 1-0 victory against No. 5-seed University of West Virginia.

“Having won the College Cup with Clemson last fall, I felt this was the right time to begin my professional career," said Smart. “I believe the opportunity the Lights have presented me in a league like the USL Championship offers a great platform for me to take my game to the next level and help the club earn success this season.”

Smart becomes the second player from Clemson’s College Cup-winning squad to join a USL Championship club this offseason, following the signing of fellow defender Pape Mar Boye by Phoenix Rising FC in January. The signing continues the trend of top college players choosing to launch their professional careers in the Championship.

“This is an example of the professional pathway selected by another top young player who sees the USL Championship as his opportunity to reach the highest level of play,” said USL Head of Global Football Development & Sporting Director Oliver Wyss. “As the Lights enter a new era under the leadership of José Bautista and his group, a signing such as this is a very positive step forward and shows the direction the club is aiming to take on the field and in the soccer marketplace.”  

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