One day after I asked if MLS is doing enough to protect its young talent from poachers (link), the LA Galaxy have announced the creation of an Academy Alliance with the South Bay Force and West Coast Futbol Club. This expansion of the Galaxy's youth development forces looks to change the way talent is forged and has room for more growth in the future.
The alliance is structured to be the base of the Galaxy's player pyramid, with affiliated clubs given resources to play with the with foundations of Galaxy technique and style of play. The clubs in the alliance will share coaching resources, staff, and best practices.
Each alliance club will have an U-12 Galaxy academy team that will be fully funded and fully supported by the Galaxy academy and adidas. adidas have partnered with the Galaxy academy since 2009, and they will providing Galaxy uniforms and equipment for each of the teams to use. Once a week the Galaxy will hold joint training sessions with the alliance clubs and the Galaxy academy.
"The LA Galaxy are committed to creating the best Academy system in the United States and the Galaxy Alliance will allow us to better identify and develop a greater number of players throughout the region," said LA Galaxy President Chris Klein. "By aligning ourselves with some of the best youth soccer clubs in the region, we are in a position to create a central coaching philosophy and curriculum, allowing us to teach the finest youth soccer players in Southern California how to play the game the Galaxy way."
Partnerships like these are a great way to identity young talent and keep first pick rights on these players within the MLS system. It helps the Galaxy avoid the randomness of the draft system, keeping local talent as a select few are good enough to make the thirty man roster.
However, it doesn't address one of the questions raised yesterday about youth players in the MLS system not having contracts keeping them from going to Mexico or overseas. The Galaxy made a big splash signing Gyasi Zardes, but Raul Mendiola is another top talent who has been getting a solid look from overseas clubs. There's a possibility that this talented player that the Galaxy paid to develop could never dress for the senior squad, and that the Galaxy would get nothing once he leaves to ply his trade elsewhere.
The Galaxy were the first team to bring over a DP (David Beckham), and the first to sign a Homegrown Player (Tristan Bowen). LA has constantly pushed the boundaries of how MLS brings in talent, but what I see behind this announcement is the need to have more control over local youth.
MLS needs to eventually have a system like Major League Baseball's minor league system. Announcements like this and the USL-Pro partnership are a step in that direction. No matter how loudly the fringes yell, promotion and relegation aren't the only way to fill the gaps US developed talent can fall through.