Homegrown player signings are great. We all want the local kids to succeed, and it doesn’t get much better than watching a guy you’ve seen develop over the years play for your favorite pro team (see point #1). But there’s more to it than that. Here are five reasons (in no particular order) why it’s an all-around smart move to sign more Development Academy players.
1. Fans love local players.
Like I said above, it’s fun to see a player with local ties signed to your team. Especially if that player is someone like Kort Ford, who went through the Rapids Development Academy and then played at DU. You feel like you know the player already, and they’re more familiar than someone who comes from another state or country.
After signing Ford and Ricardo Perez, Sporting Director Pádraig Smith said, “it’s so much easier for fans to get behind the players that they’ve seen since they were young kids playing in the Development Academy and that are coming from the areas beside them. It helps if you’ve gone on and had the sort of career that Dillon Serna’s already had, and scored some of the goals that Dillon Serna has scored, but there’s always going to be an affinity there with the fans and the local players. I think that’s something that we want to continue to push, and that’s where our priorities have come to lie.”
2. It’s an easier transition for both sides.
Guys who get signed to a Homegrown Contract have played for the team’s Development Academy for at least one year, so they are familiar with the coaching staff, coaching methods, and the team philosophy. Conversely, the team is already familiar with the player’s strengths, weaknesses, and work ethic.
“It’s very important to have players who understand the culture of the club, who understand what we’re trying to do,” said Smith. “Kortne and Ricky, they’ve trained with the first team, so they know already what Pablo wants, they have an idea of what it takes to be a professional in this league, so I think that’s something that definitely helps.”
According to head coach Pablo Mastroeni, “we’ve had them in the summertime, and they got an opportunity to see a group of guys that were in a good form, playing the right way, and compete the right way. I think their integration is going to be seamless.”
3. It makes financial sense.
According to the 2016 MLS Roster Rules & Regulations, teams may sign as many Homegrown Players as they want, and these players can go on the Senior, Supplemental, or Reserve Rosters. The salaries for players on the Supplemental (roster spots 21-24) or Reserve (roster spots 25-28) Rosters do not count towards the salary cap.
The key here is that the rules allow Homegrown players to earn up to $125,000 more than the minimum salary for the Senior or Supplemental Rosters. In 2016, the minimum salary for Supplemental was $51,500 and the Senior minimum salary was $62,500. This means is that a team can pay these guys more money to entice them to come play, stick them on the Supplemental roster so that it doesn’t hit the salary cap, and have more money to bring in a more expensive player. Most homegrown signings are for development, not for starting positions on the Senior Roster, so it’s a win for both the player and the team.
4. It’s a return on investment.
The team has invested time, money, and coaching to develop these players, so when they can pull a DA player up to the first team, it’s an obvious return on that investment. Smith believes that “the more players you can bring through your own academy system, the more players you have that understand what you’re trying to do, understand what the club is, understand what it means to be a Colorado Rapids player, I think it really helps to build a foundation of success for clubs if you do grow and develop from within.”
You can plan for the future a little more, too, if you know who’s coming up through the DA. “Players that are coming through are going to be critical to our continued success as a club,” Mastroeni said. “There are a lot great players in the Academy that we look forward to bringing to the first team.”
5. You can get ahead of the draft.
In all likelihood, Ford and Perez would have gone high in the draft. The Rapids had the 15th pick in the first round this year, so they could have lost these two if not for the Homegrown Player Rule. Instead, we have two players that will likely develop into really solid pros and will help create that foundation of success that Smith mentioned above. Another win/win.
Did I miss anything? What do you think is the biggest benefit to signing Homegrown Players?