The Kids Aren't Alright in MLS
Instead of getting into fights with the New York Yankees, it would be nice if MLS would join the fray for a few of the young talents on display in Iquique and Tijuana. In reality, MLS needs to increase its commitment to youth in general. Chile is hosting the South American under-17 championships while the CONCACAF version currently underway in Mexico and having had the chance to watch many of the games so far I think these are two more boats that the league is missing. It would be rather easy to put together a dream team of these pre-shaving starlets that would embarrass many MLS sides. There are the usual suspects like Brazil and Argentina who could contribute. Right back Crystian and attacking-mids Wellington and Coutinho are helping Brazil in the fight for their ninth title at this age level. However, goalkeeper Damián Martinez, forward Daniel Villalva and defenders Leandro González and Estéban Espíndola are representing the albicelestes very well. Uruguay (D Diego Polenta, F Bernardo Laureira, F Adrián Luna) and Colombia (DM Deiner Córdoba, AM Edwin Cardona, F Wilson Cuero) are loaded with talent. Chile (D Enzo Andía) and Ecuador (LB Cesar Villacís) have players that could step into MLS without missing a beat while Bolivia (Samuel Galindo, 17) and Peru (Joazinho Arroé, 16) have playmakers that would be among the best in MLS right now. It is not just the South Americans. Look at the United States squad that Wilmer Cabrera has put together. Why hasn't MLS tried to sign Jack McInerny or Stefan Jerome? Anywhere else around the world and third generation striker Joseph Gyau, Carlos Martinez and Sebastian Lletget would also be signed up by a pro club and being groomed for the future. As it stands, none of them is on a pro club. Almost every player in the South American tournament is already in a professional environment. Look at the next level and it is even worse. There are players like Danny Cruz (Houston), and the Dallas-foursome of Josh Lambo, Peri Marosevic, Brek Shea and Anthony Wallace. And Jorge Flores is on the Chivas USA roster, but he had to go through an American Idol like process to get there and he is going in the wrong direction with only 16 minutes played this season. Hertha Berlin (Bryan Arguez), Club Brugge (Jared Jeffrey) and Southampton (Kyle Davies) were stepping up where MLS teams feared to tread. Davies has returned to MLS with Salt Lake, but add all of the MLS youngsters together and it's a grand total of 38 minutes played. Compare that with 19-year-old Colombian playmaker Sherman Cardenas who has already played more than 100 games for Bucaramanga and Millonarios. Around the world, more and more leagues are mandating domestic youth participation. Maybe it is that they start, or play a certain number of minutes - but Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Mexico, Bolivia and Chile are all on board. Heck, even Australia, Malaysia and Scotland have mandated that clubs give more opportunities to younger players. MLS has its much-ballyhooed Generation Adidas, but the current class is only ten deep and half of them are not playing. Most of these 'youngsters' are already so old that elsewhere around the world their futures would have already been written. While Don Garber is admitting that US fans want to see a better product on the field, the decision to abandon the reserve squads this season looks penny-wise, pound-foolish. Sure, it is saving a bit of money on the short end, but it has cost playing time and roster spots for promising talent for the future. Sure, getting another star player on every team is a worthy goal, but MLS needs to increase its commitment to growing the game with young talent, both domestic and international.