MLS academies are very well-represented on the invitation list for U.S. Soccer's inaugural National Combine, a five-day camp for the country's top 15- to 17-year-old players which kicks off in Portland, Ore., on Friday.
A new initiative intended to help US coaches build the player pool for the next Under-18 national team, the combine gathers 64 prospects from across the country who have been identified by the federation's scouting network via seven local combines, “Training Center” events (one-day player ID sessions held 200 times a year at dozens of locations nationwide), Development Academy competitions and other showcases. In Oregon, they will experience a pro-level environment structured to resemble a national-team camp.
Nearly half of the group called in by U.S. Soccer director of scouting Tony Lepore this week hail from MLS and MLS-affiliated academies across the country.
FC Dallas' impressive youth system has contributed the most with six players set to take part, followed by the four from Real Salt Lake's Arizona academy.
The regional networks built by the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew have sent four players apiece, while New England, New York, LA, Chivas USA and San Jose can each boast of two participants from their ranks.
Houston and Colorado each have one representative headed for Portland, where the camp will be hosted at Nike's World Headquarters from Friday through Aug. 13.
The U-18 national team does not compete in world championship tournaments, but is intended as a bridge from the U-17 to U-20 levels, making it highly possible that several members of Lepore's player pool will go on to feature in U-20 national team action in the future.