The Colorado Rapids have been public, honest and direct about manifesting a club philosophy that is rooted on youth development.
Over the past few years, Colorado have acquired a number of budding talents across the league who needed a change of scenery, turning heads in the process in trading for the likes of Kellyn Acosta, Auston Trusty and more. They've produced their own academy graduates, headlined by Cole Bassett and Sam Vines.
This week should come as no surprise, then, as the Rapids signed another two players from their academy to homegrown deals while acquiring two more.
"It’s something we’ve been committed to for a number of years now and we’re starting to reap the rewards there," EVP & GM Padraig Smith told media on a virtual press conference.
Adding to their vast reserve of young talent, Colorado signed academy products Darren Yapi and Oliver Larraz, then traded for the homegrown rights to Dantouma Toure (from the New York Red Bulls) and Michael Edwards (D.C. United). Such is their ethos, Smith quipped that Edwards, aged 20, was "a little older" with no detection of sarcasm.
Yapi became the club's youngest-ever signing, a forward that made his professional debut aged 15 in the USL Championship while Toure made double-digit appearances in the same league by the age of 16. Edwards had been with Wolfsberg in Germany, featuring for their second team and U-19s. Larraz spent time in Germany before signing his MLS deal.
“We felt these were players who have very high ceilings, we’re talking about elite-level players," Smith said. "We wanted to go out and get them, we’re going to be aggressive.”
The recent flurry of moves, including signing Vines and Diego Rubio to contract extensions, brings the club's current size to 33. All players are in preseason with the idea of an open competition to earning a place in the rotation, though more than a few will be loaned out upon the end of camp to ensure they're not just sitting on the bench.
“It’s great competition," Smith said of the roster. "We’re not afraid to throw a 16-year-old into the fray, players will get the opportunity to play here when they’re ready.”
Colorado are optimistic heading into 2021. Coming off a playoff campaign despite the club being hit with a COVID-19 outbreak that halted the season for about a month as they got rolling, the core is returning. It's another season under head coach Robin Fraser, while Michael Barrios has been acquired to supplement an already deep attack headlined by Younes Namli.
All the while, the club are becoming a destination for rising talent in the country.
“These are things we’re very proud of," Smith said. "The emphasis is on us to ensure we stick to that, that we’re always looking to recruit the best young talent so we can be who we aspire to be. We want to be in the playoffs every single year, we want to bring MLS Cup back to Colorado.”