Djordje Mihailovic is living out his childhood dream.
After growing up as the son of a professional soccer player, the 18-year-old signed with the Chicago Fire as a homegrown player just over a month ago.
Mihailovic's dad, Aleks, played in the North American Soccer League in the late 70s and early 80s. Now Djordje, who says he started playing when he was two years old, is beginning his own professional career.
"I can't think of a better job than to play soccer," he said. "I've been a fan of Chicago Fire my whole life. I always went to the games as a kid, to be playing in the stadium now is just unreal."
Mihailovic, who grew up in Lemont, was in his fourth season with the Fire's academy when he signed his homegrown contract on Jan. 27. The preseason had already started before he signed, but he was already training with the first team. He has been training with the first team sporadically since the summer of 2015.
The midfielder said that time helped him adjust to the pro game, but the transition was a bit jarring at first.
"The first thing I had to learn was how to play quicker out of pressure," Mihailovic said. "Quickly I learned that. All the guys going 100 percent everyday and respond. That's what you have to learn quick if you want to make it here."
In addition to training with professionals, Mihailovic has had experience at youth national team levels. He has represented the U.S. at the U-17 and U-19 levels, including spending some time with the under-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla. He played with the under-19s in February during the Fire's preseason and scored a goal against NASL side Miami FC in a friendly.
Mihailovic was committed to play collegiately at North Carolina, where Fire homegrown prospects Cameron Lindley and Mauricio Pineda recently completed their freshmen seasons, but instead decided to make the jump to the professional ranks this season.
"I felt ready," Mihailovic said. "I've been here for a year. I get along with the guys good. I can compete with these guys. I feel like I can earn my spot."
He describes his position as a mix between a box-to-box midfielder and a more playmaking, attacking midfielder. He mentioned Juninho as the player on the Fire he tries to watch and model his game after most, even if Mihailovic is more of an attacking player than Juninho, who is more of a defensive mid.
Playing time may not come often this season, but that's not what Mihailovic said his focus is this season.
"I'm expecting this year just to learn as much as I can from older guys like Dax (McCarty) and Juni, the guys that played my position for a long time," he said. "They do a great job at it. I'm just trying to learn. If I get in, great, but as long I'm learning that's what I need right now at my age."
Whatever happens, for now it's a dream come true for Mihailovic, who was born a few weeks after the Fire won MLS Cup '98.
"It's been a dream," he said. "I came to Chicago Fire four years ago in the academy and hoped for this opportunity and it finally came true."