The search for the next Shalrie Joseph begins ... now.
On Thursday, at a press conference in Antigua, MLS announced a new partnership with the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) to host a Caribbean Player Combine January 2-5 in St. John's, Antigua. The top players at the event, to be held at Antigua Recreation Grounds, will earn an invitation to the adidas MLS Player Combine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., held later in January.
“We recognize that the CONCACAF area, and particularly the Caribbean, is rich with soccer talent,” MLS executive vice president Todd Durbin said in a statement released by the league. "This will be an opportunity for our scouts to evaluate and identify the region’s top players."
The Caribbean combine in January will be focused, particularly, on young talent, bringing in players aged 18-21, who will spend four days training and playing against local clubs.
“As CFU Member Associations turn their attention to Russia 2018, this is an exciting developmental opportunity for the opulent young talent in the Caribbean to assess their developmental level and the growth required to play at the highest level,” said CFU President Gordon Derrick.
“This partnership with MLS is another way in which we at the CFU are seeking to bridge the gap that exists between talent availability and scouting opportunities that the Caribbean region has received from professional leagues.”
Caribbean players have been having an impact on MLS since the league was founded, with the current Seattle Sounders midfielder and former New England Revolution star Joseph a particular standout.
A native of St. George's, Grenada, who represented his island home 20 times, Joseph is considered by many to be one of the top players in MLS history. A four-time MLS Best XI selection, he was a mainstay in the midfield for the Revolution during their mid-2000s heyday, helping the club to a US Open Cup title, a SuperLiga title, and three MLS Cup final appearances between 2003 and 2012.
Other prominent Caribbean players in MLS history include Trinidadian Stern John, Jamaican Jeff Cunningham, and Vincentian Ezra Hendrickson. Current Caribbean stars include Jamaicans Donovan Ricketts, Ryan Johnson, and Omar Cummings, Cuban Osvaldo Alonso, and Colorado Rapids forward Atiba Harris, a native of St. Kitts & Nevis.