Residency Week 2012: Where next for the Whitecaps U18s?

With the gap between the USSDA and the PDL, the lack of competitive games in general for our young talent, and the few opportunities that realistically exist of breaking into the Whitecaps MLS squad, leaves you wondering just what lies in store for the future of the current group of ‘Caps U18 talent.

Their choices are limited: hope the ‘Caps sign them, go to college, move overseas, or give up playing professionally to have a career in another field and perhaps playing in the local leagues like VMSL.

The rules regarding college are currently being reviewed by the MLS competitions committee. As it stands for now, Residency players can participate with the first team at training and play in MLS Reserve matches without it affecting their NCAA eligibility, as long as they are not paid to play.

Once a qualifying Residency players goes to college, the Caps will retain their rights and if they then want to sign him, they are free to do so without it affecting any future SuperDraft picks. But they have to bring them back every year for a certain number of hours training with the team.

Going down the NCAA route is still frowned upon by many, but also still very much championed by others. Now I can’t even begin for a minute to give an opinion either way as I just simply do not know enough about the American collegiate system.

Even after five years of living in Canada now I still can’t quite get my head around the popularity of college sport and the fanatical obsession many have with it, whilst at the same time gazing in awe at the crowds that it attracts and the wonderful passion it invokes.

A popular held belief with soccer fans is that it is great for producing basketball and the other kind of football players, but not much else.

There was an article in the New York Sun in November 2006 entitled NCAA Soccer a Dead End for MLS Talent.

It’s a very interesting read and includes this little tidbit:

“What needs to be said is that college soccer is the biggest obstacle to progress in the area of developing future pro players. Everyone, apart from a few college diehards, knows this to be the truth. But it is a truth that is rarely spelled out.”

That was written over five years ago. Has anything changed?

One person who doesn’t think so is TFC Academy Director Thomas Rongen who told the Toronto Sun in January:

“The college environment is just not a conducive environment in critical stages of your development. When you’re playing limited games during the year … it hampers development.”.

It’s another interesting read, but is it just a case of another outsider like myself not understanding the system?

It’s all very well saying that going the NCAA doesn’t develop a player properly, but what other route do most of the Whitecaps players have?

If you’re too old to play USSDA where do you go? If you’re not quite ready for the professional game where do you go?

The PDL team is great, but plays a 16 game regular season over three months.

One answer would be for the Caps to either start a D2 side, or use an existing D2 team as a farm team to loan their young talent to. Both options would give players maximum playing time to fully develop and give the Caps a chance to assess their talent in a truly competitive environment.

As would a season long under 23 league, akin to what they in Germany, but that’s even less likely to happen.

Sending them off to Europe for a season, as we are set to do with Caleb Clarke, is another option, but the danger then is always that they develop too much and we never see them back.

So as it stands, the NCAA route is really the best, and only, choice for many players still.

Whether that route develops them to the max is the key question.

The ideal route is for the Caps, and all of the MLS clubs, to develop and fully utilise as many “Homegrown Players” as they can.

When Karl Ouimette became Montreal Impact’s first Homegrown Player in MLS earlier this month, he became the 55th player on the “MLS Homegrown Player Signings” list.

Of those 55, ten are not currently members on a MLS club roster, including the Caps very own Philippe Davies and Nizar Khalfan.

Authored by: Michael McColl

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