For a good while now we who support our clubs and this league in MLS have been screaming for which ever club that has a youth academy can only sign one and wait for a good while to have the chance to sign another to the senior side and play in first team matches in MLS. The supporters have been stressed out as well as frustrated about a potential youth player in a MLS Club side that could have the goods to become the next best youth superstar in their area and the league as well. Even though Jozy Altidore was developed inside the US Youth Academy down in Bradenton, Florida & drafted by then known as the MetroStars and got his shot playing for Red Bull NY, till the record ten million dollar transfer to La Liga side Villarreal.
Well a new development has just come out from Brian Lewis of the New York Post. I have read that MLS has just loosened up their rules on how many prospects each side can accept that has youth academies. Now teams can sign two acadmey players to a Generation Adidas deal instead of just one; they can ink four prospects per year, up from two; and other clubs can no longer raid their prospects, good news for talent-rich academies like Red Bull NY.
And speaking about Red Bull NY there is an interesting case that comes back to my memory about how all these academy rules came about when there was a certain Haitian player that impressed the club back as the Metro but was not able to get it done due to certain rules from MLS that had to be changed for the better. Johnny Exantus or better known and loved as Johnny X was a member of the 2005 U-17 USL Super Y League championship and then head coach Mo Johnston & GM Alexi Lalas brought him in for training during the off-season and were so impressed by his level of play that they were ready to sign him up. But back then there was no such thing. The only way Exantus was allowed to sign for the league and for a club back in the old days was to sign a youth contract and have his rights held within a lottery. If Metro was lucky and got him back then everything would be fine, but if another club won his rights then he would’ve had to discuss his financial situation with said club. The Metros back then decided to keep him in their youth system and forced MLS to change their rules on youth signings, yet it wasn’t good enough till just recently.
It goes to show you that MLS has started to grow up and they are seeing that to make this league grow and get better, you can’t rely on the NCAA College draft alone. You have to allow these clubs that have youth academies to bare the fruits of their labor and right now it looks like it’s getting better & better. If this league wants to continue to bring in new & exciting youth players to make this league grow into something special as well as young Americans who have dreams of playing professional inside their own country and making the National Team, then this is also another way of making the sport popular.
Just like Major League Baseball & the National Hockey League have the Minor Leagues that handle prospects that dream of making it to the big stage, so do the prospects of young footballers wanting to play for MLS. There are those Americans that want to play in Europe and that is great as well, but if MLS wants to get stronger as a whole the next step for them is to do away with these rules entirely and just allow the clubs to have free reign all together. It’s easier to say we need to bring in more superstars from Europe to play in our league, but what I have seen is that Ben Olsen, Clint Mathis, Brian Ching, Clint Dempsey, DaMarcus Beasley and countless others who are born here in the States can make their own star shine if they are given a fair chance to perform on the pitch.
But quickly going back to Red Bull NY, they do have alot of prospects that are either still inside their acadmey, playing in college or on trial with several clubs in Europe. Midfielder Matt Kassel is currently attending the University of Maryland and of course won the National Championship in his freshman year, Costa Rican Forward Walter Hines is with the U-18 RBNY squad & Johnny X who was on trial with Beligum side Royal Racing Football Club Montegnee is no longer with them and is on a two week trial with RBNY along with another prospect in American Dilly Duka who was on the roster for the tournament in CONCACAF to qualify for the U-20 World Cup this coming September.
Finally there is going to be some form of relief and alot of positives that MLS has done to allow more youth players to get a chance and make a name for themselves in this league. There is still more to be done, but right now this is about four steps forward for the league.