The MLS has finally announced their Youth Development Program:

MLS is requiring each of its teams next season to establish a youth amateur program, separate from the pro club. These youth teams will give talented young players with professional aspirations an excellent opportunity to pursue their dreams, stay close to home, and continue their education. Players registered for at least 24 months in an MLS youth program become eligible to sign a professional contract with that team without entering the MLS SuperDraft.

So it looks like they will be getting around the college eligibility problem by creating separate programs from the pro clubs and players can sign with a team without going through the SuperDraft. Will be interesting to see if the NCAA is comfortable with this or not.

UPDATE: I was rushing out the door when I posted this, so here’s some more thoughts. The article clearly states the NCAA eligibility is not at risk:

During the next few years, MLS clubs will create teams in up to six age groups. Players on these teams will wear the club’s colors and train under the team’s coaching staff. Players on MLS youth teams may be able to compete with other youth club teams at various times during the year. MLS youth programs will not jeopardize a player’s NCAA eligibility.

The article doesn’t give a lot of detail, but it seems like they’re using the SuperDraft bypass as the key to retaining talent. What isn’t mentioned are particulars like:

  • Can a player switch youth programs if they move and sit out one year to satisfy the residency requirement?
  • If a player is released and moves to another Home Territory, do they still sit a year?
  • How big will the ‘Home Areas’ be? (Hopefully quite large around clubs with no neighboring clubs)
  • Is there any academic requirements for children under 17?
  • Can players be exchanged between clubs?
  • How often are players reviewed for retention?
  • Can someone on a U-25 team, for example, enter the SuperDraft if they haven’t been signed by their home team. If so, do they lose their ‘home grown’ status by entering the SuperDraft?

I’m sure many more details will come out over time, just figured I’d jot a few down.