LA Galaxy defender Julián Araujo talks World Cup, humble beginnings originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Julián Araujo knew from a very young age he wanted to grow up to become a professional soccer player. It's all that was on his mind, and now that dream has manifested into a reality.
The 21-year-old LA Galaxy defender has spent a large amount of his time off the pitch bringing awareness to the hardworking farmworkers in his hometown of Lompoc, Calif.
Araujo, who plays as a right-back for the Major League Soccer club LA Galaxy, was born in the United States but eyed a chance to play for the Mexican national team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. He didn't make the final roster, but his dream will live on ahead of the 2026 tournament.
Let’s take a look at how one of the most watched young prospects in Major League Soccer made his name in the sport:
Family of farmers
Araujo says that being the son of a farmworker gives him an overwhelming sense of pride, and the responsibility to do something for the community's people. His father, Jorge, worked in the Lompoc fields, his first job when he came to the United States.
His mother, aunts and uncles worked the fields of California, as well.
“I watched my dad wake up very early,” Araujo told the My New Favorite Futbolista podcast. “I would never kind of see my dad because I was always at practice. And when I got home, he was already sleeping. And yeah, it was just something that he got up for – to feed us, to feed our family, to to make sure that we were good.”
The Lompoc fields have proven to be a big part of Julian's identity.
“I've grown up around it my whole life,” he said. “That's why I want to use my voice and my platform to help.”
Barça comes calling
Araujo was born in Lompoc – a city with about 44,000 people, two hours north of Los Angeles – on Aug. 13, 2001, and is of Mexican descent.
He attended Lompoc High School before leaving home to join the Barça Residency Academy training program in Casa Grande, Ariz., before he turned 16 years old.
Araujo received a full scholarship for the program affiliated with FC Barcelona, and leveraged that opportunity to make a commitment to play college soccer at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) beginning in the fall 2018.
Araujo’s soccer career hit a fork in the road moment when he was just moments away from boarding a flight to La Masía, Barça’s soccer academy in Spain.
He received a text message that his best friend Michael Taylor had passed away unexpectedly.
Arajuo, now 16 but still very much a young teenager, faced the most tough decision of his life: Board the flight or go back home to be with Michael’s family.
He decided to board the flight and continue his career in honor of his best friend.
A few months after playing at the soccer academy in Spain, Araujo gained interest from Los Angeles Galaxy II, the second-tier U.S. Soccer League team.
The amazing trajectory continued when the 17-year-old Araujo became the youngest player to represent the U.S. in the 2018 CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Bradenton, Fla.
Climbing up the LA Galaxy ladder
Araujo is now in his fourth season with LA after being a regular starter since 2020. He has recorded seven assists for a second consecutive season, logging 24 starts in 26 appearances. He has notched one goal and 11 assists across 70 matches (62 starts) since becoming a locked-in starter.
The dual-national represented the U.S. at the youth level. He even made his senior debut in a December 2020 international friendly vs. El Salvador, then switched associations across CONCACAF’s long-standing rivalry. He made the decision to represent Mexico on a national level.
Araujo has made two appearances for the Mexican National team, debuting in a December 2021 international friendly vs. Chile before making his World Cup qualifying debut off the bench a few months ago vs. Panama.
Araujo gives back to the community
The farm industry took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, so Araujo decided that he had to do something more to help farmworkers in his hometown of Lompoc.
In February 2021, he united his LA Galaxy teammates and took them to Lompoc where they met with members of the United Farm Workers Foundation and distributed more than $26,000 in aid. They also donated soccer balls and backpacks full of things like toothpaste, face masks and other families needed.
It was a moment that brought his mother, Lupe, great joy.
“We have always instilled in him that whenever he feels like giving, to not think it over too much,” she said. “To just do it. Why? Because it’s a wonderful feeling. When you feel like helping someone, the satisfaction of knowing you made a small difference, even if it’s in just one person, that’s extremely gratifying. Better than, I don’t know, a goal."