In his annual State of the League address on Monday, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber touted this year's rookie class, including defenders A.J. DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez, who have helped lead the Los Angeles Galaxy to its fifth MLS Cup appearance.
Many of those other players, members of the league's Generation adidas, will get to showcase their abilities in an 11-day trip to South Africa later this month.
"On the competition side, clearly to us, the big story is the rookie class, particularly with Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza in Los Angeles, guys we all think have been a very important part of the turnaround in Los Angeles," Garber said. "But you add to Omar and A.J., Chris Pontius in D.C., Steve Zakuani in Seattle, Toronto's Stefan Frei played every game, we've got a great class that I think will help show those young kids that we go after signing that you can be a young player in our league, you can get playing time, you can become an important contributor to your club and hopefully will be a driver of a continued career in Major League Soccer or perhaps an opportunity to continue your career somewhere else."
The players, 18 of the top young players in MLS, will play in three friendlies against Premier Soccer League reserves, attend the World Cup 2010 official draw in Cape Town and tour Nelson Mandela's House in Soweto, Soccer City Stadium and the Apartheid Museum.
Last year, the Generation adidas players went on an eight-day tour of London, where they played three matches against English Premier League reserve teams, trained at Chelsea academy and attended both an EPL and a Champions League match.
In 2007, the group went on a two-week tour of Madrid, while the group also trained in England in 2006.
The team will be comprised of Kansas City Wizards teammates Chance Myers and Roger Espinoza, Brek Shea, Peri Marosevic, Bruno Guarda, Eric Avila and Josh Lambo from FC Dallas, Colorado Rapids teammates Ciaran O'Brien and Rob Valentino, Patrick Nyarko and Baggio Husidic from the Chicago Fire, as well as Jeremy Hall from the New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution rookie Kevin Alston, Toronto FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei, Tony Beltran from Real Salt Lake, Danny Cruz of Houston Dynamo and D.C. United teammates Chris Pontius and Rodney Wallace.
Pontius and Frei were both finalists for MLS Rookie of the Year, won last week by Gonzalez.
Dylan Butler is a contributor to MLSnet.com.