As the 20th season for Major League Soccer kicks off this year, one element that certainly has impacted the league each season is the increasing presence of former Development Academy players and homegrown contracts.
It is not only the volume of Academy alumni but their increased roles and the influence they have for their respective clubs.
Just last fall, former U.S. Soccer Young Male Athlete of the Year Wil Trapp was praised by soccer legend Thierry Henry for his play during the New York Red Bulls’ 3-1 home loss to Trapp’s Columbus Crew SC. That prompted Trapp to admit that “you get goose bumps” hearing such acknowledgement.
D.C. United and former Academy goalkeeper Bill Hamid had a stellar 2014 season, earning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and becoming the first homegrown goalkeeper to win the award: “To see Bill’s growth as a homegrown player coming out of our youth Academy and now rising to being named the best goalkeeper in MLS is simply incredible,” D.C. United GM Dave Kasper said at the time.
LA Galaxy striker Gyasi Zardes had a memorable campaign, as well, scoring 16 goals during the regular season (ranked sixth in the league) while also scoring the opening goal during the Galaxy’s 2-1 victory against the New England Revolution to win the 2014 MLS Cup. He became the first homegrown player to score a goal in MLS Cup, and his 16 regular-season tallies is a record for homegrown players.
Also noteworthy in the fact that 14 of the 20 players named to the 2014 MLS Homegrown Game roster were former Academy players.
Entering the 2015 MLS season, there are 109 players with Academy ties rostered on MLS clubs. Additionally, seven players in MLS have featured for the U.S. Men’s National Team: Juan Agudelo, Steve Birnbaum, Wil Bruin, Luis Gil, Bill Hamid, Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes.
Heading into this campaign, 16 new players with Academy ties are rostered with MLS clubs as 93 alumni were part of the picture in 2014. Of this year’s group, 69 Academy alumni have already made their professional debut.
Here is a breakdown of 2015 MLS-rostered players who have been a part of the Development Academy system:
- Chicago Fire (3): Collin Fernandez, Chris Ritter, Harry Shipp
- Colorado Rapids (8): Carlos Alvarez, Caleb Calvert, Marlon Hairston, Shane O’Neill, Dillon Powers, Dillon Serna, Grant Van De Casteele, Jared Watts
- Columbus Crew SC (8): Chad Barson, Adam Bedell, Romain Gall, Matt Lampson, Ben Speas, Brad Stuver, Ben Swanson, Wil Trapp
- D.C. United (6): Steve Birnbaum, Bill Hamid, Taylor Kemp, Collin Martin, Jalen Robinson, Michael Seaton
- FC Dallas: (7): Kellyn Acosta, Coy Craft, Danny Garcia, Jesse Gonzalez, Moises Hernandez, Victor Ulloa, Alejandro Zendejas
- Houston Dynamo (5): Will Bruin, AJ Cochran, Taylor Hunter, Michael Lisch, Memo Rodriguez
- LA Galaxy (8): Bradford Jamieson IV, Jack McBean, Raul Mendiola, Tommy Meyer, Charlie Rugg, Oscar Sorto, Jose Villarreal, Gyasi Zardes
- Montreal Impact (2): Eric Miller, Blake Smith
- New England Revolution (7): Juan Agudelo, Scott Caldwell, Diego Fagundez, Sean Okoli, Kelyn Rowe, Tyler Rudy, London Woodberry
- New York City FC (4): Connor Brandt, Matt Dunn, Thomas McNamara, Khiry Shelton
- New York Red Bulls (6): Santiago Castano, Sean David, Chris Duvall, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Connor Lade, Matt Miazga
- Orlando City SC (6): Conor Donovan, Earl Edwards Jr., Harrison Heath, Tommy Redding, Sidney Rivera, Tyler Turner
- Philadelphia Union (8): Dzenan Catic, Leo Fernandes, John McCarthy, Jimmy McLaughlin, Zach Pfeffer, Andrew Wenger, Ethan White, Sheanon Williams
- Portland Timbers FC (3): Seth Casiple, Darlington Nagbe, Taylor Peay
- Real Salt Lake (6): Jordan Allen, Lalo Fernandez, Luis Gil, Justen Glad, Boyd Okwuonu, John Stertzer
- San Jose Earthquakes (4): Fatai Alashe, JJ Koval, Tommy Thompson, Kris Tyrpak
- Seattle Sounders FC (3): Darwin Jones, Aaron Kovar, Victor Mansaray
- Sporting Kansas City (5): Amadou Dia, Connor Hallisey, Jon Kempin, Erik Palmer-Brown, James Rogers
- Toronto FC (2): Marco Delgado, Eriq Zavaleta
- Vancouver Whitecaps (8): Sam Adekugbe, Marco Bustos, Marco Carducci, Caleb Clarke, Christian Dean, Kianz Froese, Kekuta Manneh, Tim Parker