Jonny X and the MetroStars
They were so impressed with the 16-year-old's skill that they started training him with their first team. Oddly enough, he flourished. So next stop, contract and MLS play. Problem is, MLS says no.
Due to Jonny's age, he cannot be sign directly by the Metros. He will need to be signed by MLS's Generation Adidas program and then go through the draft where any team could get him.
Anyone else see a problem with this? The MetroStars paid the cost of recruited and trained him and now they might not even get a chance to use him? Same thing can happen to the three other teams with youth programs (DC, Chicago and Dallas).
These youth programs scout for young players in their local area by starting up youth leagues. They work to develop players from the ground up. They are not required to do this by the league, instead they do it because it makes sense. If you don't train players when they are young, they will not be any good when they are older. Since teams need good players to be successful, you can see the importance in this outreach.
But due to the MLS wanting to keep all teams as equal as possible, the teams that take the time, effort and money to do all this training might never benefit from it. Sure, they will benefit indirectly (the more good players out there, the stronger the league and the better the chance of keeping fans attention), but they should be able to get a direct reward for their investment.
It seems that the league is considering establishing a process that will help teams to benefit from youth clubs, but I worry this will go nowhere. Why would teams without a youth system (i.e. the majority) want to give any sort of advantage to teams with youth systems (i.e. the minority). I know this is oversimplification of MLS politics, but I think the point is valid.
If MLS allowed teams first chance at any youth players they develop, limiting it to a certain number per year, this would encourage other teams to start youth leagues. Since these leagues are in the local area of the teams, this will not only serve as a talent development pool, but also as a constant PR program. Every kid that plays has a family and fans that will come watch. If these people see a team like the MetroStars taking an interest in their son/friend, they will take more of an interest in the MetroStars.
In addition, if the MLS wants to have 16 teams by 2010, they will need to increase the amount of US talent out there. Youth programs are the way to do such a thing.
The best thing is that most areas already have some sort of youth league. A team could tap into that so as to not start from scratch.
Again, the league should not force team's to do this, they should just have a reward for those who plan for the future.