Landon Donovan will coach the MLS Homegrown Team against the Mexico Under-20 national team in the third annual Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game at 9 pm ET on July 27 at Avaya Stadium, the league announced on Thursday.
Held the day before the 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star Game between MLS and English Premier League club Arsenal, this year’s Homegrown Game will air live on UDN, marking the first time the match will be broadcast on national television.
Back for his second year as coach of the Homegrown team, American soccer icon Donovan will host a live Q&A on his Facebook page at 2 pm ET on Thursday to talk about his coaching experience, the player selection process and answer questions about the match.
Started in 2014, the Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game gives a platform to some of the league’s top young talent and showcases MLS’s youth development system. MLS academies have produced over 150 Homegrown Players who have signed with MLS first teams, with Homegrown Players logging a record 54,000 minutes played in 2015.
In addition to their contributions on the club level, Homegrown Players have become significant contributors on the international level, with four Homegrown standouts – LA’s Gyasi Zardes, Seattle’s Jordan Morris, Dallas’ Kellyn Acosta and Columbus’ Wil Trapp – already combining for nine caps with the US national team so far in 2016. Additionally, five Homegrown Players have seen action for the Canadian national team so far this year, with Montreal’s Maxime Crepeau and Wandrille Lefevre and Vancouver’s Sam Adekugbe, Kianz Froese and Marco Bustos suiting up for Benito Floro’s side.
“The development of Major League Soccer’s youth academy system remains at the forefront of the league’s long-term initiatives” Todd Durbin, MLS executive VP of player relations and competition, said in a statement. “The Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game offers a unique opportunity for the exceptional players our clubs have produced. We are excited to have the Mexico Under-20 national team as this year’s opponent as it promises to be a competitive match.”
The most formidable opponent to feature in a Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game to date, the Mexico U-20s could feature young stars Pachuca midfielder Pablo Lopez, Club América’s Ulises Torres and Chivas forward Kevin Magana in the Homegrown Game. In an interesting twist of fate, the MLS Homegrowns could face one of their own as Real Salt Lake academy product Sebastian Saucedo – who is currently on loan with Mexican club Veracruz – received his first call-up to the Mexico U-20 squad last November.
MLS Homegrown Players are a specialized group of players that have been a member of an MLS club’s youth development program for at least one year and have met the necessary training and retention requirements. Players that meet those qualifications can sign a professional contract with the club’s senior team without being subject to the SuperDraft.
Both of the previous editions of the MLS Homegrown Game have ended in a draw, with the Homegrowns playing the Portland Timbers U-23s to a scoreless tie in the inaugural match in 2014 before tying 1-1 and losing in penalties to the Club América U-20s last year.