The arrival of the 2017 season means a lot of things to a lot of people. But for a handful of promising Homegrown Players, it means a chance to crack open a pathway to meaningful contributions with their home clubs.
Here’s a rundown of what to expect from the league’s stable of Homegrowns in 2017 after a record year in terms of signing volume. From each team’s chart-topping best Homegrown to those they're incubating for a longer-term future, MLS should feature a bit of everything this season. Note that NYCFC and Minnesota United were omitted because each has yet to sign a Homegrown out of its own academy to the first team.
2017 Homegrowns (2): MF Andrew Carleton (2017), MF Chris Goslin (2017)
What to expect: This is a giant unknown to pile on top of those already present in Atlanta, but Andrew Carleton (above) had a few wildly successful run-outs this preseason. The 16-year-old is certainly good enough to poach minutes in 2017, although a loan could also be in the works. Chris Goslin, the defensive midfielder who signed alongside him, is perhaps a bit further away from first-team minutes but is no less as promising in the long term, believe it or not. Considering how green Atlanta United’s roster is together, expect the unexpected when it comes to their Homegrowns and playing time.
Chart-topper: It’s hard to find a more hyped Homegrown anywhere than Carleton. The young winger is perhaps the most eccentrically talented wide man in the current US youth international picture.
For the future: Goslin’s often been overlooked due to the radiance of Carleton’s star, but don’t forget about him as a possession-oriented sitting midfielder. He’s a thoroughly modern No. 6.
2017 Homegrowns (5): DF Patrick Doody (2015), MF Drew Conner (2016), MF Collin Fernandez (2014), MF Djordje Mihailovic (2017), FW Joey Calistri (2016)
What to expect: It had been over a year since the Fire signed a Homegrown when they locked up Djordje Mihailovic this offseason. He’s the fifth current Fire Homegrown, four of whom are now ideally central midfielders. Joey Calistri, Drew Connor and Collin Fernandez have all struggled so far to carve out consistent minutes in the middle, while Patrick Doody’s time at the back has been similarly limited. Chicago’s offseason infusion of talent, especially in those two positions, will likely limit Homegrown minutes in 2017, and none look like starters in 2017 barring injury.
Chart-topper: Fernandez has been in the Fire pro system since 2014, but his technical ability and talent currently supersede anything else the Fire can offer on the Homegrown front. The question is whether he can convince coach Veljko Paunovic.
For the future: The newest is the best in this case. Mihailovic is a metronomic tempo-setter and can rule a central midfield if provided ample cover. But at 18, he might need a year or two.
2017 Homegrowns (3): DF Kortne Ford (2017), MF Ricardo Perez (2017), MF Dillon Serna (2013)
What to expect: The story of the Rapids’ Homegrowns in 2017 will largely rotate around what Dillon Serna’s playing time looks like. He’s bounced in and out of favor under coach Pablo Mastroeni as a left-sided wide player, and the Rapids turned into a steel trap at the back in 2016 largely without him. Despite his skill, it’s hard not to see him in a difficult battle for playing time. The other two on the roster, rookies Kortne Ford and Ricardo Perez, are talented but raw and airdrop into positions of relative strength. Both will be depth options to start the year, and especially Ford.
Chart-topper: It’s still Serna, who remains one of the most beguiling Homegrowns in the league despite his injury-plagued past. He can make an impact at either left back or left midfield.
For the future: Ford is an absolute bear of a central defender, and he helmed the University of Denver defense that only lost two NCAA games in 2015 and 2016 combined. He can legitimately push for time, even against a stacked field.
Columbus Crew SC
2017 Homegrowns (3): DF Alex Crognale (2017), MF Ben Swanson (2015), MF Wil Trapp (2013)
What to expect: Crew SC’s Homegrown scene in 2017 looked pretty cut and dry – a heaping helping of Wil Trapp and little else – until Gaston Sauro went down for the season in December. That stretched the depth of the center back corps and could give recent Homegrown signee Alex Crognale an avenue to minutes this season. He probably won’t start right off the bat, but the former University of Maryland man is a reliable, locally-sourced player Crew SC can turn to as a depth option. Ben Swanson, the only other Homegrown currently on the first-team roster, is more of an unknown and could factor into another loan deal this season if there isn’t an avenue to MLS minutes.
Chart-topper: This one’s a no-brainer. Trapp might be the best Homegrown in the league right now, and he’s the unquestioned boss as the deep core of the Columbus midfield.
For the future: It’s unfortunate the 19-year-old Swanson lost most of his 2016 on loan in Pittsburgh to a shoulder injury, because he has heaps of promise as a technically able possession-forward midfielder. His future, though, still looks bright.
2017 Homegrowns (4): GK Bill Hamid (2010), DF Jalen Robinson (2014), MF Chris Durkin, MF Ian Harkes (2017)
What to expect: For the first time since Bill Hamid and Andy Najar swept through town, there’s a tangible buzz around D.C. United’s Homegrown class. The additions of Chris Durkin and Ian Harkes provided D.C. with two of the better young midfielders in the country, and both have massive amounts of tangible value driving forward. Add Jalen Robinson to that pot and you’ve got some quality locally-sourced talent here. Durkin probably has some upstream waters to navigate still, but Harkes should be value-added immediately after four years at Wake Forest.
Chart-topper: Signing Harkes, who holds a British passport and reportedly tested the waters abroad, was a major coup this winter. As a versatile box-to-box midfielder, there might not be a more first team-ready Homegrown signed anywhere this offseason.
For the future: Durkin might not be the No. 6 United needs right now, but he might be in a relatively short amount of time. He’s a tremendous talent who’s captained the US U17 team, though he just turned 17.
2017 Homegrowns (9): GK Jesse Gonzalez (2013), DF Reggie Cannon (2017), DF Aaron Guillen (2016), MF Kellyn Acosta (2013), MF Paxton Pomykal (2017), MF Victor Ulloa (2011), FW Coy Craft (2014), FW Jesus Ferreira (2017), FW Bryan Reynolds (2017)
What to expect: Expect minutes. Lots of minutes. Kellyn Acosta is already scoring golazos in 2017. Jesus Ferreira, Paxton Pomykal and Reggie Cannon impressed on FCD's preseason trip to Argentina. Victor Ulloa is still rotational first-team quality. Coy Craft made the US U-20 national team squad for World Cup qualifying. And that’s not even mentioning the other three Homegrowns on the first team roster. Acosta is the only Homegrown who looks like a no-doubt, day-one starter, but the aforementioned trio of Ferreira, Pomykal and Cannon – add Bryan Reynolds to that list too – look mighty promising and could get some cameos as well. With coach Oscar Pareja, expect the kids to be alright.
Chart-topper: Is Acosta the best MLS Homegrown of all time? He’s definitely in the top three, and at the very least it’s debatable. More US national team minutes might not be far away, either (hopefully in the midfield).
For the future: Watch Ferreira, son of former FCD star and 2010 MLS MVP David, and you’ll understand what the fuss is about. Whether out wide or up top, few FCD Homegrowns have ever been as exciting as the endlessly skilled 16-year-old.
2017 Homegrowns (2): GK Tyler Deric (2009), MF Christian Lucatero (2015)
What to expect: The Dynamo’s list of options on the Homegrown front this season is notably short. In fact, there are just two names on that list: goalkeeper Tyler Deric and midfielder Christian Lucatero. The latter is a massive talent, but he’s had his struggles cracking first-team soccer, both with the Dynamo and with RGVFC Toros, the club’s USL affiliate (he’s still listed as loaned out on the team’s official roster, for whatever that’s worth). Deric, though, is the No. 1 'keeper between the pipes and is the lone true success story in the Dynamo’s history with Homegrowns. Other than Deric, don’t expect to see any other Dynamo HGPs featuring as regulars in 2017.
Chart-topper: Even if it wasn’t by default, this designation no doubt belongs to Deric. He’s one of the better goalkeepers the Homegrown initiative’s ever produced, and he deserves his time at the No. 1 spot again this year.
For the future: Again, by default, Lucatero’s the name here. He has as much technical ability as any Homegrown right now, but he’s yet to curry favor with the club’s coaching staff.
2017 Homegrowns (6): DF Hugo Arellano (2017), MF Raul Mendiola (2014), FW Bradford Jamieson IV (2014), FW Jack McBean (2011), FW Jose Villarreal (2012), FW Gyasi Zardes (2013)
What to expect: This is a fascinating hinge year for a number of LA Galaxy Homegrowns. There are currently six on the first-team roster, starting with king of the castle Gyasi Zardes, who’s still rehabbing an injury. Jose Villarreal and Raul Mendiola both have cases to make after flitting around the first-team picture for a few years, while the return of an in-form Jack McBean could be a surprisingly robust boon to the attacking corps. Bradford Jamieson’s also waiting to break in, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see young 18-year-old center back Hugo Arellano spend some time with Los Dos in the USL in 2017.
Chart-topper: If you don’t choose Zardes here, you’re off your rocker. Even though he’s coming off an injury this year, he remains a jewel in the Homegrown system’s crown.
For the future: He may be the youngest Homegrown, but Arellano has talent for days. The possession-forward center back captained the US U-17 national team at the 2015 U-17 World Cup for a reason.
2017 Homegrowns (6): GK Maxime Crepeau (2014), DF Wandrille Lefevre (2013), MF Louis Beland-Goyette (2017), MF David Choiniere (2016), MF Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla (2017), FW Anthony Jackson-Hamel (2014)
What to expect: The Impact have not been particularly shy about lobbing Homegrown contracts at their promising young kids, but pushing them into meaningful minutes has been a harder task. That said, there are a few among the Impact’s six currently rostered Homegrown players who could see an uptick in minutes in 2017. Midfielders David Choiniere (20) and Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla (17) are both first-team quality, although they’ll have a difficult time cracking a midfield featuring names like Bernadello and Piatti. There are no out-and-out starters on this Homegrown list to start the year, but there should be some bench minutes available.
Chart-topper: Choiniere made his debut in Montreal’s last regular-season match of 2016, which could augur more time in 2017 for the endlessly skillful attacking midfielder.
For the future: He’s only 17, so you’ll have to give him time, but the Cote d'Ivoire-born Tabla has drawn rave reviews for the Canadian youth national team to date. His breakthrough feels like an eventuality, though perhaps not in the immediate future.
New England Revolution
2017 Homegrowns (3): MF Scott Caldwell (2013), MF Diego Fagundez (2011), MF Zachary Herivaux (2015)
What to expect: The Revolution still have one of the most impressive one-two combos of Homegrown talents ever, but it’s in need of a refresh. It’s been three years since Scott Caldwell signed and six since Diego Fagundez came on board, and Zach Herivaux, who’s only gotten 38 first-team minutes, is the only signee since who rose through the Revolution academy to the pro team. Herivaux, a versatile midfielder in his own right, was tossed a couple small sub stints last season and could get some more this year, but Xavier Kouassi’s return isn’t a great harbinger for his playing time. Fagundez and Caldwell should, of course, continue to be vital cogs in 2017.
Chart-topper: Any team in the league would kill for a talent like Fagundez, who possesses a rare blend of technical ability and vision. It’s incredible to think he’s still just 22.
For the future: Herivaux’s time with the first team may be limited, but the tall, wispy midfielder should get some more time in 2017, even if it’s in a reserve role. He’s assured in pressure and is a project to watch down the road.
New York Red Bulls
2017 Homegrowns (8): GK Evan Louro (2017), DF Connor Lade (2012), MF Tyler Adams (2016), MF Arun Basuljevic (2017), MF Sean Davis (2015), MF Derrick Etienne (2016), MF Alex Muyl (2016), FW Brandon Allen (2016)
What to expect: The Dax McCarty trade to the Chicago Fire in January was a statement of intent that the front office trusts its youth. And there’s a lot to trust. The Red Bulls ran through the 2017 preseason with a whopping eight Homegrowns on the roster, and the majority of the starting talent is concentrated in the midfield. Sean Davis will probably start next to Felipe, Connor Lade is a starting-caliber right back and Alex Muyl should again have his time to impress higher upfield. The bigger question is whether some of the more untested Homegrowns - names like Derrick Etienne and Arun Basuljevic - will be given an opportunity with the first team in 2017. Under coach Jesse Marsch, anything’s possible on that front.
Chart-topper: At least at this point, Davis certainly looks like the real deal as a starter in the middle who’s capable of running the show. He has all the tools you look for in a professional No. 8, and 2017 has the look of his breakout year.
For the future: If you haven’t had the chance to watch Tyler Adams boss a central midfield, you’re missing out on a singular joy. Whether as a No. 6 or a No. 8 (ideally as a 6), the 18-year-old Homegrown is an ace in the hole.
Orlando City SC
2017 Homegrowns (2): GK Mason Stajduhar (2016), DF Tommy Redding (2015)
Note: Although a product of the Orlando City academy, MF Pierre Da Silva was not signed as a Homegrown Player after spending a season on the Orlando City B reserve team in USL.
What to expect: Orlando City’s youth apparatus isn’t as old as some in MLS, but it’s already driving roots down to the sand in Florida. Orlando City may only have two Homegrowns on its first team roster at the moment, but both are big talents. Mason Stajduhar is one of the most promising keepers to emerge from the US Soccer Development Academy, and Tommy Redding is a national team-caliber center back. A third, Pierre da Silva, is a Homegrown in all but roster designation, since he joined the Orlando City academy from out of state. Da Silva signed with the first team this offseason and is a huge talent, making him the first player to go through the club’s academy, USL team and first team.
Chart-topper: Orlando City seems to have something special in Redding. He’s a bonafide U-20 national team starter and could be in line for major minutes at the back for the Lions in 2017.
For the future: It typically takes 'keepers some time to sink into the system, so Stajduhar’s 19 years likely make him one for further down the road. But don’t sleep on his ability. He’s the total package.
2017 Homegrowns (2): DF Auston Trusty (2016), MF Derrick Jones (2016)
What to expect: Expectations for Union Homegrowns have never been this high. Now that the club’s YSC Academy is three years old, there’s a legit stable of young talent in the pool. And it made be a small pool for now, but there’s certainly quality in it. The 18-year-old Auston Trusty is a US U-20 international center back who’s mature beyond his years and has legit pro size already at 6-foot-3. He could earn some spot duty in the middle in 2017, especially with Josh Yaro’s injury. Derrick Jones has first-team aspirations, and the Union also slyly acquired the Homegrown rights of mega-talent Adam Najem, who came up with RBNY and could easily poach a few starting minutes in 2017.
Chart-topper: There’s no substitute for experience, and Trusty’s had plenty of it on the national team level (and at USL side Bethlehem Steel) over the past couple years. He’s a bonafide high-end prospect.
For the future: Center back Matthew Real signed a USL deal with Bethlehem Steel this offseason, and he’s probably the best overall prospect to emerge from YSC Academy so far. He might not crack the Union first team in 2017, but keep an eye out for 2018 and beyond.
2017 Homegrowns (1): DF Marco Farfan (2017)
What to expect: The Timbers have been notoriously slow at folding in Homegrowns, and they don’t have much in the way of legitimate first-team options this year. Their only Homegrown currently on the roster – they’ve signed three in their history – is Marco Farfan, who officially joined the first team in October. Still, Farfan is only 17, and while the raiding left back enjoyed a standout year with Timbers 2 in the USL in 2016, it’s unlikely he’ll be thrown to the wolves with the first team so soon. The more likely scenario is a full-season loan to T2 and another year in Portland without a Homegrown player garnering MLS minutes.
Chart-topper: This is Farfan by default, but he’s still rightly considered the most promising Homegrown the Timbers have ever signed. He should also continue to snap up youth national team minutes as he goes.
For the future: In the interest of adding some non-Farfan diversity, pay attention to the 19-year-old Blake Bodily at the University of Washington this year. He impressed as a left winger for T2 last year, and a Homegrown deal could cut his college career short.
Real Salt Lake
2017 Homegrowns (7): GK Lalo Fernandez (2012), DF Danilo Acosta (2016), DF Justen Glad (2014), MF Jose Hernandez (2017), FW Jordan Allen (2014), FW Sebastian Saucedo (2014), FW Ricardo Velazco (2016)
What to expect: Talk about an interesting group of Homegrowns. Real Salt Lake has a whopping eight of them rostered for 2017, including Liverpool loanee Brooks Lennon. The kids should get some time on the field, too. Center back Justen Glad seems like an entrenched starter at this point, and Sebastian Saucedo, Jordan Allen and Lennon each should get a crack at starting minutes in 2017. The broader question is merely how much. And that’s without mentioning names like Jose Hernandez and Danilo Acosta, who could be nearing a permanent switch from the No. 6 role to left back, which would open up a significantly clearer avenue to first-team minutes down the road.
Chart-topper: By now, the secret’s out on Glad. The US U-20 regular is one of the stirring success stories of the Homegrown initiative, and with 35 first-team appearances before his 20th birthday, he’ll only improve from here.
For the future: At 5-foot-3, there’s something distinctly Joao Plata-ish about recent signee Hernandez. The slippery 20-year-old attacking midfielder is a nightmare to mark, although he may need seasoning with RSL's USL side Real Monarchs to ease the transition from UCLA.
San Jose Earthquakes
2017 Homegrowns (2): DF Nick Lima (2017), MF Tommy Thompson (2014)
What to expect: In the span of a single afternoon in December, the Earthquakes doubled their first-team Homegrown representation. The signing of Cal center back Nick Lima to a Homegrown deal added another Homegrown to the one they already had on the roster in Tommy Thompson. Lima’s versatility – he can play either fullback position as well – could quicken his transition to the first team and push him into more minutes than some might expect. As for Thompson, his MLS minutes have been sporadic, but he should at least get a shot to finally snag his first points in a San Jose shirt since signing in 2014.
Chart-topper: There’s no question Thompson has the talent, it’s just a matter of pulling it together for results now. He’s still yet to get a goal or an assist in 2,000 MLS minutes, and he’s significantly better than that would indicate.
For the future: Lima isn’t exactly a player who’ll take years to integrate, but especially if he plans on moving to fullback it could take time to get him comfortable at the next level. But with his natural ability, it’s worth the wait.
2017 Homegrowns (4): MF Aaron Kovar (2014), MF Henry Wingo (2017), FW Seyi Adekoya (2017), FW Jordan Morris (2016)
What to expect: In 2016, Jordan Morris became just the second Homegrown to ever win an MLS Rookie of the Year award. So it goes without saying life is good on that front in Seattle these days. Morris is the No. 1 option up top this season, and he could have company on the first team. Victor Mansaray was loaned to FC Cincinnati for the year, but Aaron Kovar should see some time with the dearth of wide options. Henry Wingo and Seyi Adekoya signed Homegrown deals out of college this offseason, and while playing time seems a bit further off for each, they’re both promising talents.
Chart-topper: If there’s a more dangerous Homegrown in MLS than Morris right now, you’ll have to point him out. He scored 14 goals in 2016, the most ever for an American rookie. The future is blindingly bright.
For the future: Wingo has dominated the discussion in Seattle this preseason with his impressive performances (and goals) as a wide midfielder. The Sounders have enough quality to keep him on the bench – and perhaps at Sounders 2 – for now, but that might not last long.
Sporting Kansas City
2017 Homegrowns (3): DF Kevin Ellis (2011), DF Erik Palmer-Brown (2013), FW Daniel Salloi (2016)
What to expect: Sporting KC fans looking for an exciting young Homegrown to crack the starting XI might not get their wish to start, but the pace is quickening. Erik Palmer-Brown is back from a year-long loan in Portugal at Porto B, and the 19-year-old should push for time at center back in 2017, even if he doesn’t appear to be a day-one starter. Kevin Ellis got about 1,000 minutes last year and should contribute again in 2017, while recent Homegrown signing Daniel Salloi looks to be a cracking talent out of the SKC academy ranks. But the most intriguing story for SKC in 2017 rotates around Palmer-Brown’s starting status.
Chart-topper: Palmer-Brown was handed the US captain’s armband at the recent U-20 CONCACAF Championship for a reason. He’s not only one of the best American defenders in the pool, but he also possesses tremendous leadership qualities.
For the future: Salloi isn’t exactly a household name in the world of MLS Homegrowns just yet, but that could soon change. The Hungarian international is a born goalscorer and seems a natural fit for Peter Vermes’ system as a rampaging forward.
2017 Homegrowns (4): DF Ashtone Morgan (2011), MF Sergio Camargo (2017), MF Jay Chapman (2015), FW Jordan Hamilton (2014)
Note: Molham Babouli played in the Toronto FC academy, but was not signed to a Homegrown Player contract after featuring for Toronto FC II reserve team
What to expect: Toronto FC appear to be in good stead with their Homegrown project, even if it seems like all of them – there are six on the first-team roster – are just outside the first team picture. Jay Chapman, Marky Delgado (a Chivas USA academy product), Jordan Hamilton and Ashtone Morgan have all been in the system a while and should get decent looks at playing time in 2017. Delgado and Chapman in particular seem like good bets to get into the rotation in the central midfield, the former as a box-to-box guy and the latter as more of a sitting option. The most recent addition, rookie Sergio Camargo, is maybe a bit further away but should provide good value as a tricky, skilled midfielder who can exploit space in the final third.
Chart-topper: Chapman remains one of the more underrated Homegrown dots on the map. He’s so versatile that he can be pulled in too many directions at times, but he could start for the majority of teams in MLS.
For the future: TFC don’t have any particularly young Homegrowns, but it could take Camargo some time to get a level of comfort in the system after signing in the offseason. He may be 22, but the transition from college to pro isn’t always the easiest.
2017 Homegrowns (4): MF Marco Bustos (2015), MF Alphonso Davies (2016), MF Ben McKendry (2015), MF Russell Teibert (2011)
What to expect: The Whitecaps have historically had no trouble producing top Homegrown players, but translating that to first-team success has been more of a challenge. The good news is the chance is there in 2017 to turn that tide. Alphonso Davies is still just 16, but the hype is real and he could legitimately start a significant chunk of the season out wide. Marco Bustos has been nibbling around the first-team picture for a year now, and few Homegrowns in history are as versed in MLS play as Russell Teibert. After VWFC sold Kianz Froese to Fortuna Dusseldorf in January, those three probably have the best shot at substantive minutes in 2017.
Chart-topper: There’s little question Bustos has the quality to hack it in MLS. The biggest question has probably been positional fit. Wherever he slots in, one hopes he’s able to get enough minutes to stake a convincing case in 2017.
For the future: Is there any Homegrown in the league towing more hype behind him than Davies? The teen has shown zero cracks in confidence as one of the youngest starters in MLS history, and one has to wonder if the ceiling on his developing talent is even discernible at this point. Probably not.