Former United States internationals Geoff Cameron and Brek Shea have announced they are both retiring from professional soccer and plan on starting a business venture together, the duo told ESPN in an exclusive interview.
Both players started their professional careers in 2008, and were teammates for a brief spell when they were at then-Premier League side Stoke City. But after spending 15 years in the professional game, the pair decided now was the time to try something new.
"We've kind of had a long journey, and our journey has gone on two different paths," Cameron said. "We've started near each other, and then ended up at Stoke with each other, and he ended up living with me and we have a really good friendship and relationship. We live close to each other now and we're building something pretty unique."
Both Cameron and Shea said they feel physically fit enough to continue playing, but the prospect of signing for a team for likely one season did not appeal to them, particularly having settled in with their respective families in South Florida.
"It just felt right," Shea said about his decision to retire. "I like where I live. My kids are happy. They have friends. They're in sports. It seemed like a lot to move, so I felt right and happy with what I did and I couldn't have felt better."
Shea and Cameron turned pro after being drafted by FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo, respectively. Shea made his mark as a dynamic attacking player, while Cameron settled into midfield and center back roles. After excelling in MLS, the two players joined Stoke City within six months of each other, starting with Cameron's move in the summer of 2012. The move turned out well for Cameron as he went on to spend nine seasons in England, six with Stoke and another three in the English Championship with Queens Park Rangers. He finished off his career with FC Cincinnati of MLS.
Shea's stay in England proved difficult, including a loan spell with Barnsley that ended prematurely following a post-game confrontation with fans. But he showed some resilience in terms of continuing his pro career, and in 2015 he returned to MLS with Orlando City where he spent two seasons. He went on to have stints with the Vancouver Whitecaps and Atlanta United before spending his final three pro seasons with Inter Miami.
Some of Shea's finest moments came with the USMNT, including scoring the game-winner in the 2013 Gold Cup final. He made 34 international appearances overall, scoring four goals.
"I come from South Texas, where I didn't think I was going to go anywhere and be able to play professionally," Shea said. "That's what I wanted to do. So to do something that I trained hard for and wanted to do and then made it, I think every step that I took was just a surprise. But I worked my ass off to get there and it just feels good to live out what I wanted to do.
"I think all those things that I learned help make me who I am today, and I think it makes me a better person, makes me a better father and can help teach my kids."
Cameron enjoyed some memorable experiences as well, and was part of the squad that competed at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He made a total of 55 appearances for the U.S., scoring four goals.
"It was my dream as a kid, just like Brek's, and playing soccer in the backyard and dreaming of representing your country and playing in the best league in the world," Cameron said.
"To look back on it now, it's really nice to see that more Americans are playing over there and are challenging the top leagues in the world. I like to think that we were part of that path of encouragement in getting more Americans to dream and to dream big and to go over there."
Cameron and Shea declined to go into much detail about precisely what their new business venture will entail. Shea has long been viewed as a free spirit, with an well-known affinity for painting. But they plan to provide a platform where players from youth level all the way to the professional ranks can draw from their collective experience.
"We have a lot of value in this game and I feel like we can give back, so that's the plan," Shea said.
Before the two hang up their cleats for good, there is one more playing obligation to fulfill. Both players will take part in The Soccer Tournament, a seven-v-seven tournament with a $1 million grand prize. Former Stoke City teammate Stephen Ireland has put a side together and convinced both Cameron and Shea to take part.
"It will be good to catch up with some old Stoke City friends," Cameron said. "We tried to get a few more, but a lot of guys are all over the map and working at clubs in different various positions. But it's good to play with Stephen."