12 December 2012

MLS home-grown prospect update

The MLS offseason has a number of different sub-plots, and one of my favorites is collegiate soccer players with the potential to be signed to home-grown contracts. It’s early in December, but we’re already getting news on the home-grown player front. Between the NCAA College Cup and the initial list of players invited to January’s MLS Combine, we’re getting a good idea of which senior prospects could be signing directly with a club, rather than hoping to be picked in the SuperDraft. (Underclassmen, of course, are another story.)

I was a little surprised to hear so much talk about the draft prospects of Georgetown midfielder Ian Christianson (a senior) and Maryland forward Patrick Mullins (a junior) during the College Cup, given that both were claimed by the Fire on a 2010 list of home-grown claims. That list had yet to be ratified by MLS, however, and claims from a variety of teams later fell through. So I’ve been curious about the specific cases of Christianson and Mullins, and I think I now have answers:

It seems that Christianson played for the Chicago Fire Academy in his junior and senior years of high school and then went to Georgetown. Where the situation gets tricky, however, is the fact that Christianson’s hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is a good 220 miles from Bridgeview, much greater than the maximum of 75 miles allowed by the Fire’s specified home territory. Based on the original MLS home-grown player rules, which could have been changed by now, teams were allowed two territorial exemptions (players who live outside the home territory) per age group (there were six age groups at the time; the rules contain no explanation of what happens when a territorial exemption moves up an age group).

MLSsoccer.com’s Daniel Robertson reported on Sunday that Christianson said his lack of home-grown eligibility was a decision made by MLS, but Fire Director of Communications Brendan Hannan said in an e-mail that Christianson was not on the club’s home-grown list because, “the club is left with difficult decisions on who to place on the ‘out of area’ home-grown list.” Reading between the lines, the Fire must have (either now, or at some point during Christianson’s association with the club) decided to prioritize two other prospects from outside the home territory.

This is an interesting one. Mullins played youth soccer in Louisiana for Lafreniere SC, one of several clubs that merged to form the Chicago Fire Juniors Louisiana club. Hannan's email said, however, that Mullins had left for college before his club’s official affiliation with the Fire.

Normally this would be understandably clear-cut, but the decision not to accept the Fire’s claim to Mullins (a claim they did make as far back as 2010, and he has since played for Fire U-20 teams) seems to contradict a recent MLS precedent. Last year, MLS accepted the Portland Timbers’ home-grown claim to forward Brent Richards, who played youth soccer for EastSide United way before the MLS Timbers even existed and also played for the Timbers’ PDL team. EastSide United was later folded into the MLS Timbers’ youth system, providing the basis for Richards’ signing. In a somewhat similar situation, I have heard that the San Jose Earthquakes will be able to place a home-grown claim on former U.S. U-17 and current Santa Clara goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh, even though he left for U-17 residency before his club became affiliated with the Earthquakes. This is likely a few years away, but worth noting.

We don’t know how much back-and-forth there was between MLS and the Fire over these two players, but it is interesting to track some of these borderline cases. Believe me, there are a lot more behind the scenes that we don’t hear about.

As for home-grown MLS prospects, here is a summary of what is being reported about some of those already linked to pro deals for 2013, notably from Adam Jardy at the Columbus Dispatch and Ives Galarcep of Soccer By Ives:
MLS clubPlayerCollegeHG claim statusOutlook
Chicago MF Ian ChristiansonGeorgetownnoneMLS combine
ColumbusDF Chad BarsonAkronacceptedlikely to sign
ColumbusGK Justin LuthyBoston Collegeacceptedlikely to sign
ColumbusDF Matt WietUCLAacceptedlikely to sign
ColumbusMF Wil TrappAkron (soph.)acceptedhired agent, could sign
D.C. UnitedFW Uwem EtukWest Virginiaclub declinedMLS combine
FC DallasDF London WoodberryMarylandacceptedcontract offered
New EnglandMF Scott CaldwellAkronacceptedlikely to sign
PortlandFW Erik HurtadoSanta ClaradeniedMLS combine
Just for fun, here are some other players who could be looking at pro contract offers, even though I haven't seen it reported:
MLS clubPlayerCollegeResume
Chicago MF Bryan CiesiulkaMarquette (jr.)2nd tm Big East; 5g, 9a
ChicagoMF Harry ShippNotre Dame (jr.)3rd tm Big East; 6g, 6a
ColoradoGK Brendan RoslundSan Francisco (sr.)6-foot-6; 0.99 GAA
ColoradoDF Patrick SlogicCornell (jr.)6-foot-5; 1st tm all region
ColoradoMF Dillon SernaAkron (fr.)1st tm MAC; 2g, 8a
FC DallasDF Mikey AmbroseMaryland (fr.)2nd tm ACC; 1g, 7a
FC DallasMF Danny GarciaUNC (fr.)2nd tm ACC; Frosh POY
FC DallasDF Boyd OkwuonuUNC (so.)1st tm ACC
HoustonDF Sebastien IbeaghaDuke (jr.)ACC Def. POY
LA GalaxyFW Gyasi ZardesCSU-Bakersfield (jr.)MPSF POY; 15gls in 17gms
New YorkGK Keith CardonaMaryland (so.)1.14 GAA
New YorkFW Brandon AllenGeorgetown (fr.)Big East Rookie of Yr; 16g, 2a
(from NY)
MF Bryan GallegoAkron (so.)2nd tm MAC
PortlandMF Steven EvansPortland (jr.)1st tm WCC; 14g, 3a
SeattleDF DeAndre YedlinAkron (so.)1st tm MAC; 6a
SeattleFW Sean OkoliWake Forest (so.)2nd tm ACC; 11g, 3a
SeattleMF Aaron KovarStanford (fr.)Pac 12 Frosh of Yr; 3g, 2a
Toronto FCFW Allando MathesonUConn (so.)7g, 1a
Vancouver MF Ben McKendryNew Mexico (fr.)MPSF Newcomer of Yr

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