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  • Homegrown status: Where we are one year after liberalization of MLS homegrown rule


    It’s been five years since MLS started to take baby steps towards allowing member clubs to develop their own talent. It took the better part of four years for the league to fully take off the training rules of its homegrown policy, but as of last November clubs had all signing restrictions removed – technically, 2011 was the first year that a team could have an entire roster of players developed by their academy.

    The homegrown rule isn’t as sexy as the Designated Player rule, but it will have far more affect on the growth of the game in North America and on the balance of power in MLS. As supporters of forced parity like to point out, one big name DP alone does not make a MLS team champions. However, it defies logic to suggest that clubs that are consistently producing pro calibre players through their academy are not going to be at a massive advantage over clubs that stubbornly hold onto the belief that you can develop through the NCAA draft alone.

    One year is a little too small of a sample to draw full conclusions, but you can already see how some teams are more willing to look at homegrowns than others. It will be interesting to keep an eye on the statistics moving forward and to compare them to what the MLS table looks like.

    Below the jump, a breakdown of homegrown minutes played in 2011.


    1- DC United

    Bill Hamid - 2392

    Andy Najar – 2522

    Conor Shanosky – 0

    Ethan White – 1928

    TOTAL - 6842

    2 - Toronto FC

    Oscar Cordon - 144

    Doneil Henry – 503

    Nicholas Lindsay – 0

    Keith Makubuya - 45

    Ashtone Morgan - 903

    Matt Stinson – 675

    TOTAL - 2270

    3 - Vancouver Whitecaps

    Phillippe Davies – 0

    Nizar Khalfan - 1066

    Brian Sylvestre – 0

    Russell Teibert – 503

    TOTAL - 1569

    4 - New York Red Bulls

    Juan Agudelo – 1364

    Matt Kassel – 82

    Sacir Hot - 0

    TOTAL - 1446

    5 - FC Dallas

    Moises Hernandez - 0

    Bryan Levya – 0

    Ruben Luna – 407

    Richard Sanchez – 0

    Jonathan Top – 0

    Victor Ulloa – 9

    TOTAL - 506

    6 - New England Revolution

    Diego Fagundez – 314

    TOTAL - 314

    7 - Philadelphia Union

    Zack Pfeiffer – 136

    TOTAL - 136

    8 - LA Galaxy

    Jack McBean – 90

    TOTAL - 90

    9 - Houston Dynamo

    Francisco Navas Cobo - 0

    Tyler Deric - 0

    Alex Dixon – 84

    Josue Soto – 0

    TOTAL - 84

    10 - Chivas USA

    Tristan Bowen – 60

    Chris Cortez – 0

    Bryan De Fuente – 0

    TOTAL - 60

    11 - Columbus Crew

    Aaron Horton - 1

    TOTAL - 1

    12- Colorado Rapids

    Savy Armstrong - 0

    Josh Janniere - 0

    TOTAL - 0

    12 - Sporting Kansas City

    Kevin Ellis - 0

    Jonathan Kempin – 0

    TOTAL - 0

    12 - Real Salt Lake

    Donny Toia - 0

    Nico Muniz – 0

    TOTAL - 0

    12 - Chicago Fire

    Victor Pineda - 0

    Kellen Gulley – 0

    TOTAL - 0

    16 - Portland Timbers

    No signings

    TOTAL - 0

    16 - Seattle Sounders

    No signings

    TOTAL - 0

    16 - San Jose Earthquakes

    No signings

    TOTAL - 0

    As stated, it’s still early days. Due to the nature of the rule, homegrown players are going to be young. As a general rule, young players are going to struggle to break into the line-up of successful teams. So, some good MLS academy programs – Salt Lake springs to mind – are further down the ranking list this year than they likely will be in future years. Likewise, teams in a re-building phase might be more likely to play kids to give them a look.

    Still, a couple things already jump out. Most notably for readers of this site, the Canadian teams already appear to be heavily relying on the rule. It makes sense. Roster restrictions and the reluctance of some American players to play in Canada makes it imperative that Vancouver, Toronto and, moving forward, Montreal, have a strong development system in place that is graduating players every year. The early returns are good. Most are aware of Vancouver’s long established residency program, but that TFC has already produced a senior international for Canada is impressive. Every indication is that Montreal will not want to be left behind (and the French fact of Quebec might make a strong academy even more important for the Impact than it is for the other two Canadian sides).

    On the American side of things, it’s no surprise that Dallas, New York and DC United are near the top of that list. Those clubs have seen the benefit of building through the academies and are taking advantage of large soccer-loving populations in their catchment areas.

    Although the evidence isn’t as glaring, the LA Galaxy might be concerned that not only has Chivas graduated more homegrown players, but that they have names like De Fuente and Cortez as opposed to McBean. It’s long been thought that the Hispanic population of LA has been criminally overlooked when it comes to mining its soccer talent. Chivas has positioned itself as the club of Hispanic LA (although rebranding as to not offend Pumas, Club America, etc fans might be a good idea) and that could give them an advantage over Mr. Beckham’s club.

    On the other side of the story, it’s telling that clubs like San Jose, Columbus or Colorado are at the bottom. Bluntly, these teams have shown an inclination towards doing things on the cheap. That worked for years when the roster rules were such that parity was all but assured. It seems unlikely that they can continue on the same path.

    Slowly, but surely, MLS is moving itself towards a structure that will reward ambition.

    It’s about time.

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