[MLS] It took a while for MLS to figure out what to do with young players developed by its teams and how to tweak its acquisition rules, and terminology, to accommodate them.
Teams will be allowed to place as many as two “homegrown” players on its rosters, the maximum of which has been increased from 24 to 26 players. As many as 20 can be signed to the “regular” roster; the others are “protected,” meaning their salaries do not count against the per-team salary budget of $2.55 million.
Homegrown players must have been in the team’s youth program – two years ago the league mandated that all of its teams must field U-16 and U-18 academy teams – for at least one year. They will earn a minimum annual “apprentice” salary of $31,250 this year, as compared to the league minimum of $40,000 for players on the regular roster. There is no minimum age but no such player can be older than 24.
Players not on the regular roster had been referred to as “developmental” players. This designation is no longer used, but most of its concepts to “protect” young players from the pressure of keeping a regular-roster spot have been retained.
Teams also have the option of listing as many as four homegrown players on its roster in a calendar year. They can sign as many as two to Generation Adidas contracts, which often include a higher salary as well as bonuses paid by adidas.
To encourage teams to not only develop players but perhaps sell them outside of the league, it has mandated that the sale of a homegrown player will net his team 75% of the transfer or loan fee. For all other players, teams normally receive no more than two-thirds of a fee.
Since last year, league and team officials have discussed competitive programs to accelerate the development of young players, some aspects of which has lagged since MLS terminated its Reserve Division after the 2008 season.
The recently signed collective bargaining agreement includes a provision for the league and the MLS Players Union to establish a form of competition for its reserve and protected players.
This could entail regular reserve-team matches or an alliance with the USSF Division 2 Professional League by which players moved back and forth between leagues.
Andy Najar, 17, became the first homegrown player to start an MLS game when he played the first 45 minutes of D.C. United's opener against Kansas City.
PLAYER (TEAM) SIGNING DATE
Tristan Bowen (Los Angeles) Nov. 2008
Tyler Deric (Houston) Feb. 2009
Cesar Zamora (Chivas USA) May 2009
Bill Hamid (D.C. United) Sept. 2009
Giorgi Chirgadze (New York) Sept. 2009
Bryan Leyva (FC Dallas) Sept. 2009
Francisco Navas Cobo (Houston) March 2010
Andy Najar (D.C. United) March 2010
Juan Agudelo (New York) March 2010