The first MLS youth academies were established in 2001. They got a huge boost in late 2006, when the league created the Home-Grown Player initiative, which enabled teams to sign players from their academies outside of the league’s draft and allocation regulations.
Since the initiative passed, 31 Home Grown players have signed with Major League Soccer. As one scribe put it, this rule will eventually have a greater impact on the quality play in MLS than the Designated Player rule (aka the Beckham Rule).
D.C. United’s Andy Najar and New York’s Juan Agudelo are both home-grown, former academy players, and they’re also both (or about to be, in Najar’s case) full internationals. The program is working, and the promising early returns are sure to be surpassed in seasons to come.
Down in Dallas this week, six MLS youth teams are taking part in the 32nd annual Dallas Cup, which features 180 teams, 70 of them from abroad, including academy sides from Arsenal, Corinthians, Barcelona, and Tigres.
FC Dallas’s academy team was drawn into Bracket B of the tournament’s showcase competition, the Super Group, a collection of 16 U-19 teams. Also in Bracket B are Barcelona and Japan’s U-18 national team.
The Hoops youngsters are off to a flying start: On Sunday, they beat the youth squad from Barcelona 3-1—that’s right, an MLS academy team beat their (approximate) Barcelona equivalent, handily—then followed that up with a 3-0 pasting of Costa Rica’s Cartagines.
If the Dallas youngsters get a win or a draw against the Japan U-18s in their third game, they’ll advance to the semifinals of the famous tournament, which has hosted the likes of Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in previous years.
All of this player-development progress has not been lost on Toronto FC, which joined MLS in 2007 but has yet to make the playoffs in four seasons.
Today, the Canadian club announced plans to create an $18-million academy and training facility in north Toronto’s Downsview Park.
Here’s a money quote on the project from Earl Cochrane, TFC’s director of team and player operations:
“Having been involved in this game for 10, 12 years here in Canada, I don’t think we can underestimate how monumental this day is going to be. This day is going to change the face of the game here in Canada, it’s going to change the way players are developed in Canada—I think this is going to lead us to developing players who are capable of playing on the world stage.”
MLS moves onward, and definitely upward.