The LA Galaxy II announced this afternoon that the club has signed LA Galaxy Academy product Ryo Fujii to a USL contract. Ryo played for the Galaxy's U-18's during the 2013-14 season before enrolling at UC Santa Barbara in 2014.
Now college has long been a stumbling block when it comes to youth development in this country as it falls outside the dream of fully vertically integrating the player development pipeline within MLS. That is to say, MLS clubs can have a prospect that they develop from age 13-18, and they can have a USL side for young talent to continue their development until they can break into the first team, but the desire among young athletes to attend college often disrupts that chain. U-18 prospects will choose to attend college rather than playing for their club's USL side.
In the case of Ryo's contract, the Galaxy have found a unique solution to this problem, and it's one that could revolutionize player development in this country. The LA Galaxy II will provide Fujii with the financial resources to enroll at Cal State Dominguez Hills, which is located directly adjacent to the StubHub Center.
The team's press release included the following quote from the team's technical director, Jovan Kirovski.
"Galaxy II allowing Galaxy Academy players to continue their growth professionally is an extremely important aspect of the developmental system we have implemented... In addition to developing Ryo as a player within the Galaxy organization, we highly value continuing his collegiate education as a member of our squad and are proud to provide him the opportunity to do so."
This is a game-changer folks, and it's something I imagine teams around the league will look to copy in order to keep their top talent in their systems. We'll have more on this story in the days to come.