LA Galaxy Academy Update: U-18's top division as system undergoes scrutiny

USA TODAY Sports

Raul Mendiola and the LA Galaxy academy team are atop their division heading into the playoffs. On a day when the MLS academy system is under a microscope, are LA doing all the right things?

With the LA Galaxy senior team on the road in Vancouver this weekend, it's an opportunity for fans to come out and see the LA Galaxy Academy teams in action. On Saturday, the LA U-17/18 and the U-15/16 squads will be taking on the San Diego Surf in back to back matches on The Home Depot Center Field 5 kicking off at 10:00am.

Last weekend the Galaxy Academy U-18 squad defeated RSL's Arizona U-18 academy squad 1-0 on Sunday with Raul Mendiola setting up Justin Dhillon for the lone goal. Dhillon is currently ranked no. 23 in the IMG Academy 150 and has signed a letter of intent with Cal Poly.

The U-18's also defeated Strikers FC 4-1 on Saturday with Mendiola scoring the fourth goal. LA went into the weekend trailing RSL-AZ by four points, but the two victories combined with two RSL-AZ loses (RSL lost to Chivas USA's U-18 side) gave the Galaxy control of the West Conference - Southwest Division.

This weekend's opponents the San Diego Surf only have 16 points in 25 matches. LA are currently the fourth seed in the US Soccer Development Academy playoffs with the Players Development Academy (New Jersey), New York Red Bulls, and Baltimore Bays Chelsea ahead of them. With only three weekends left in the season, all of LA's remaining tilts will take place at The Home Depot Center.

There have been rumblings all day with respect to the Academy System, after MLSSoccer.com ran a series of articles on the topic. The long-form piece focused on the work LA are doing in finding So Cal talent (link). Jose Villarreal was driving from Inglewood into Orange County to play for division rival Pateadores when LA offered him a spot in the development academy then offered him a Homegrown contract less than a year later (to the chagrin of many in MLS).

The MLS rules make the 75 mile radius around The Home Depot Center LA's exclusive territory. There are only five clubs that stick to that rule, with exceptions as grand as RSL controlling Utah and Arizona in an attempt to level the playing field (link). The Galaxy have to share the 75 mile territory with Chivas USA who have had less success in academy development.

The final note on academy development is the cautionary tale of Paul Arriola (link). The same way the Galaxy are scouting Pateadores, Liga MX sides like Tijuana have scouts watching Galaxy and Dallas academy matches and practices. MLS does not ask for compensation when academy prospects sign elsewhere as is done elsewhere in teh world.

Which means players like Mendiola and Dhillon are safe from being signed by other MLS sides, but until they signed the bottom line are still liable to be taken without compensation. The lingering question is: does the bevy of talent in the Galaxy academy system negate some of the top prospects which the club might not have room for right now on the thirty man senior roster?

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