Written By Chris Dailey
Michael Cunningham. 7MLC. Some call him one, some call him the other, and some even call him OPSM’s latest signing.
Born and raised in England, Cunningham fought and scraped his way up from the lower divisions of England, referred to as ‘Sunday League’, to playing in Luton Town’s academy for some time. However, despite his immense passion for the game, Cunningham was still unsure about whether he could play professionally as a youngster.
“I was always playing for either my local team, the county team, wherever I could play. But I wouldn’t say I thought about it too much as a career until I was around 15 because it’s so hard to make it in England,” Cunningham said about his aspirations to go professional.
Whilst Cunningham was unsure if he could make it to the big stage in England, he found out about another opportunity that would see him travel 3,421 miles to Rochester, New York, home of Roberts Wesleyan College (RWU).
RWU, a D2 school placed in the middle of Rochester, a place that is known for frigid cold winters and an old professional team that won the US Open Cup in 1999, was now home to the young English kid who just then realized his dreams to play pro were not too far-fetched after all.
Cunningham talked about college soccer and its similarities to professional soccer, stating “It (college soccer) is quite similar to the professional level in terms of the facilities, the fans, the traveling, and I really wanted to experience that.”
At Roberts Wesleyan, Cunningham did what Cunningham does best, dazzle through defenders, score goals, and make impact. So much impact that he ended up being awarded two spots on the college All-American team.
Cunningham, a true mind of the game, took it upon himself to watch local professional teams play while he attended Roberts Wesleyan College, “During this time in college, I watched local teams play such as the Rochester Raging Rhinos, the Lancers playing indoor, and I had never seen indoor soccer before so that was a new experience.”
After watching these two teams for years, Cunningham got a chance to train with the Rhinos during his senior year in an experience that helped the English-native elevate his game to a whole new level.
It was then, during this period where Cunningham was training with the Rhinos, being a student at day and pro footy player by night, that the goal-scoring true number 10 got his chance to finally live out his dream.
“I got an offer to go to Australia and I took that offer. I enjoy going to new cultures, playing different styles – I wanted to see what Australia was like. I went there for half a season and really enjoyed it and got to experience what it was like to play full time, this was my first team where I was getting paid to play,” Cunningham said about his once in a lifetime opportunity.
Cunningham, a kid who was in England not even ten years before playing in Australia, a kid who was unsure if he could make it as a pro, Cunningham, did it.
After Cunningham’s time in Australia, he went back to his native land of England, enjoying time with family and enjoying time on the futsal court.
On the futsal court, Cunningham’s mind expanded and he realized that playing professional indoor soccer in the states could be an option. After all, Rochester, his American hometown, already had a team in the Lancers.
Following his short stay in England, Cunningham returned to the states destined to sign a contract. His first stop, Rochester. Cunningham talked about his return to the US, saying, “When I came back to the US the Rhinos no longer existed but the Lancers were taking form so I played with the Lancers in the NPSL first (outdoor), and then they came back to the indoor league as well… It was a great option to keep my outdoor game sharp during the winter (by playing indoor).”
Cunningham, who has a YouTube channel with over 700k subscribers, became the face of the league, many people filling arenas up to have their eyes on the player that is an online soccer coach to many. And in all of these games, Cunningham shined, His sharp footwork beat defenders, and his quick decision making led to some memorable goals. These memorable goals led to some memorable celebrations, including the infamous, ‘sipping tea’ celebration popularized by USWNT player Alex Morgan.
After the past few seasons highlighted by many fans, goals, celebrations, Cunningham started to weigh in on his options heading into the future.
And right as he started to do this, OPSM called him and Cunningham was on board.
“Randomly out of the blue, they (OPSM) reached out and said I had been recommended by a couple of players, some teams are interested in me, and there are a few tryout opportunities,” Cunningham said, he continued, “Especially after this year which makes you realize how much I miss playing.”
In a short period of time with the Ottawa based agency led by the Addai brothers, Cunningham has already had two major tryouts, “In a week or so I got opportunities to go to Michigan and got to train there and I recently went to the OPSM combine, got to meet some coaches. In a snap of a finger, I got to experience the outdoor game. I’m really excited to see what’s next.”
Michael Cunningham, a man of true character, persistence, and footskill, is now on the brink of signing an outdoor professional contract thanks to the guidance of Ottawa Pro Sports Management.
All of this is happening for a guy who was unsure if he could go pro ten years ago. For a guy who didn’t know what his next move would most likely be a month ago. Michael Cunningham is not an ordinary guy. Michael Cunningham is a story about waiting for the right time and making your move when the time presents itself. And that ladies in gentleman, is a story about patience: Michael Cunningham.
Click to view Michael Cunningham’s profile on the OPSM database: https://www.opsmpro.com/players/michael-cunningham/