Jonah Freedman takes a look at next week’s CONCACAF U-20 Championship, arguing that it’s a big moment for the Major League Soccer Academy system. “The American and Canadian rosters feature a combined 13 players who have been groomed by MLS clubs in their academies or as Homegrown signings. And that’s unprecedented,” he writes. The U.S. team alone boasts four Homegrown Players: Columbus’ Wil Trapp, LA’s Jose Villarreal, and Colorado’s Dillon Serna and Shane O’Neill.
Freedman has a good point. (He’s so smart, that one.) This is the first cycle where we’ve seen the impact of MLS’s youth academy focus. I’d argue that it’s going to be another cycle or two before we’re fully aware of how successfully the academies are in changing the U.S. player pool, but this is a start and a good first test case. The roster Ramos called is mixed pretty evenly between academy products, college kids, and young men playing in Mexico and Germany.
The interesting thing will to see how much the system helps other national teams. I’ve argued before that MLS getting better could hurt the United States national team, and that could apply on a youth level as well. That said, I don’t think there’s as much of a chance of that happening as I do on the senior team.
When it comes to MLS and the academies, the vast majority of players they are training will end up playing for the American national youth team if they end up playing for any national team. At the youth level, it’s more the merrier since you never know how a 16-year-old teenager will do as he grows older. Next week in Mexico will provide a little window into the future.