One of the United States' brightest young stars is moving north to write the next chapter of his career in MLS.
US youth international Benji Joya has joined the Chicago Fire on a one-year loan deal with a transfer option from Mexico's Santos Laguna, the MLS club announced on Wednesday. Chicago won a weighted lottery on Wednesday morning in which the Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake also opted to participate.
With a 68 percent chance of winning, the Fire were the odds-on favorites in the lottery, while Seattle had a 29 percent likelihood of landing Joya and RSL were long shots at 3 percent.
“Benji is a talented, young player,” said Fire head coach and director of soccer Frank Yallop in a club statement. “He has international experience and will be a great addition as we continue to build and strengthen our squad.”
A skillful midfielder who has played mostly on the wings in recent years, Joya captained the US squad which qualified for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in impressive fashion. But coach Tab Ramos' side failed to advance out of a “Group of Death” containing Spain, France and Ghana at the tournament in Turkey last summer.
Joya is a native of San Jose, Calif. who played in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy for Bay Area powerhouse De Anza Force before signing with Santos in 2012. The 20-year-old made his senior-team debut for Los Guerreros in September of that year but has logged most of his time with the club's U-20 unit. He made four Liga MX appearances and two Copa MX appearances to date.
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According to MLS roster rules, “The team with the worst record over its last 34 regular-season games (dating back to previous season if necessary and taking playoff performance into account) will have the greatest probability of winning the lottery.”
With their successful acquisition of Joya, Chicago will not be able to participate in another weighted player lottery this season unless all teams have taken a player via the process or have waived their option to participate in the lottery.