MLS unveils new player development program

Major League Soccer and adidas announced Thursday the launch of Generation adidas, the first major initiative as part of the partnership agreement signed in November between adidas and MLS -- the largest in the league's history. The announcement was made at the 58th annual National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Convention in Baltimore, site of the 2005 MLS SuperDraft on Friday.

Specifically, Generation adidas is Major League Soccer's new youth player development program designed to identify and nurture the elite youth soccer talent in the United States. The program kicks off with the signing of 12 of the top young soccer players in the nation to MLS and adidas endorsement contracts. The first members of Generation adidas include: UCLA assist leader Chad Barrett; 16-year-old U.S. National Team midfielder Nikolas Besagno; the nation's assist leader Hunter Freeman of Virginia; South Carolina star goalkeeper Brad Guzan; 16-year-old forward Quavas Kirk; two-time NCAA champion and Indiana defender Drew Moor; classy Wake Forest defender Michael Parkhurst; Hermann Trophy finalist and forward Ryan Pore; young St. Louis University central defender Tim Ward; U.S. youth national team midfielder Christian Jimenez; St. Louis University leading scorer and Under-20 international forward Will John; and Freddy Adu's strike partner on U.S. youth national teams Jamie Watson.

"Major League Soccer has become the first choice destination for the very best young U.S. players. MLS is excited to join forces with adidas to create Generation adidas, which will improve upon and expand our commitment to identify and develop the top talent in our country," said Ivan Gazidis, MLS Deputy Commissioner. "The increased opportunities provided by Generation adidas will enable us to further diversity our talent pool and to elevate the level of competition and skill of our young American players."

The youth players who join Major League Soccer as part of the Generation adidas program will receive unprecedented opportunities to develop their game and hone their skills at the professional level in their home country. In addition to training and playing on a weekly basis with one of Major League Soccer's 12 professional clubs, players will also have the opportunity to compete in the soon to be named developmental league, to be launched later this year. Also in the future, squads of Generation adidas players will participate in matches and tours featuring international opponents in the U.S. and overseas. Generation adidas players will also receive educational grants to further their college education.

"As the global and U.S. market leader, adidas continues to produce the best products for athletes and the best opportunities for athletes to excel" said Kevin Ross, Business Unit Manager for Soccer, adidas America. "Generation adidas is another example of this commitment aimed specifically to the future stars of MLS. Our new exclusive sponsorship of MLS provides a tremendous compliment to our ongoing investment in youth soccer."

The first class of Generation adidas signings will be eligible for the 2005 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas, which will be held on Friday at the Baltimore Convention Center in conjunction with the 58th annual NSCAA Convention.

Barrett, Freeman, John and Ward will attempt to help the U.S. Under-20 National Team earn a berth for the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championships as CONCACAF regional qualifying takes place from Jan. 12-16 at The Home Depot Center. Moor was a leader of the Indiana University squad that captured the 2004 NCAA College Cup, while Guzan is one of the top young goalkeepers in the nation. Besagno and Kirk are the attacking stars of the current Under-17 National Team while Pore is one of three finalists for the Hermann Trophy, recognizing the top collegiate soccer player in the country. Jimenez, a veteran of the U.S. Under-17 program, is recognized as one of the country's elite midfielders and recently concluded his first college season at the University of South Florida. Watson, a former teammate of Freddy Adu on the Under-17 National Team, is a speedy forward for the University of North Carolina while Parkhurst is one the country's top defenders at Wake Forest University.

The partnership between MLS and adidas incorporates every aspect of the game, from product creation, to grassroots programs, television rights and retail distribution. Under the agreement, adidas will be granted exclusive rights to sales of all MLS League and team-branded product, including apparel and equipment, and exclusive broadcast advertising rights for all MLS games during the next 10 years. Beginning in 2005 with Major League Soccer's 10th season, adidas apparel and equipment will be featured in major retail stores across the country as part of extensive national retail development plans for an expanded MLS product offering. Additionally, adidas will develop MLS specific advertising and marketing programs along with commercially supporting every team.

adidas has been a partner of MLS since the league's inception and in 2005 will become the sponsor of the league's two expansion clubs: CD Chivas USA (Los Angeles, CA) and Real Salt Lake (Salt Lake City, UT), as well as the Colorado Rapids (Denver, CO), FC Dallas (Dallas, TX) and the San Jose Earthquakes (San Jose, CA). Beginning in 2006, adidas will hold the exclusive rights to outfit all of the league's 12 teams, as well as supplying the League's Official Match Ball.

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