The Home Grown Player Rule was instituted in 2006 as a way to entice MLS teams to put more emphasis on their academies. Over time, the rule has evolved and expanded to the point where teams are essentially allowed to sign as may Home Grown Players as their rosters allow. In the last year, teams have greatly increased the number of players they are signing under the rule, with 23 HGP signings coming in the past calendar year.
Being mostly players 18 years old or younger, the vast majority of the 33 signings in the rule's history have not had much of an opportunity to play. As of this writing, just three players who were signed to HGP contracts have made as many as 10 appearances and just eight have made even one senior team appearance.
That doesn't mean there haven't been signs of progress. Andy Najar, the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year, is now the poster child for the program. He made 26 appearances as a 17-year-old and is now poised to be one of the league's stars.
Identifying who the next Andy Najar will be is hardly an easy task, but we have highlighted five players signed to the league via the HGP rule who appear poised for breakout seasons. As part of SB Nation Soccer's series of previews for the 2011 MLS season, we'll be doing a series of profiles of those five players.
Included among those players are a 16-year-old who will likely make his MLS debut this year (Zach Pfeffer), a goalkeeper who already has his first MLS shutout under his belt (Bill Hamid), the first HGP to have been traded (Tristan Bowen), an 18-year-old with United States National Team experience (Juan Agudelo) and a forward who may be starting for the defending Eastern Conference champions (Ruben Luna).