Matt Kassel is reportedly close to skipping his final year at the University of Maryland in order to sign with the New York Red Bulls, in whose academy he trained prior to attending college. As such, the Red Bulls would be allowed to sign him to a Homegrown Player contract and he would not have to go through the Jan. 13 draft.
"He's planning to sign unless there's a last-minute snag," Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski told the Washington Post's Steve Goff. "With Matt, I'm happy we had him for three years. He was a great player for us. After every year, there was a possibility he was going to leave. This is the right time."
Kassel was named First Team All-ACC last year after starting all 23 of his team's games, scoring a goal and assisting on seven others. He is generally considered to be a first-round talent, maybe even someone that could have gone in the first 10 picks.
Kassel's apparent signing is just the latest in a quickly growing trend in MLS as teams are increasingly taking advantage of the expanded Homegrown Player rule. Kassel would be the 25th player signed under the Homegrown Player rule, and the 14th since the start of the 2010 season. While teams were once limited to one player that could be signed under this rule, the league has essentially taken off the shackles and now allows teams to sign as many of their former academy players as their roster allows. These players do not count against the salary cap and are not subjected to the SuperDraft or other league-wide allocation methods. Twelve teams have signed at least one Homegrown Player and six teams have signed at least two.
The Red Bulls have been among the more active teams in this area. Kassel would be the team's third Homegrown Player, joining Giorgi Chirgadze and Juan Agudelo. While Chirgadze has yet to make a senior team appearance, Agudelo is now considered one of the league's rising stars. He made his senior team debut last year, made two starts in the playoffs and even scored a goal in his debut with the United States National Team.
Chivas USA (six) and DC United (four) are the only teams to have signed more Homegrown Players. Chivas was one of the first teams to take advantage of the rule, signing their first homegrown player in 2006, but just one since 2009. DC United has been more active lately, signing three since the start of the 2010 season and all of theirs since 2009. Their most recent signe was Kassel's Maryland teammate Ethan White.
DC United's Andy Najar has become the poster child for successful Homegrown Players. Signed just a few days after his 17th birthday, he made his MLS regular season debut in DC's first game last year. Najar would go on to play 26 matches, score five goals and win the MLS Rookie of the Year award.
Despite that success, it's unclear how much of a competitive advantage these Homegrown Players offer. Just eight of them have ever appeared in a regular season MLS match, and just five have appeared in more than two matches. Tristan Bowen (two) and Carlos Borja (one) are the only other Homegrown Players to score a MLS goal.
That said, just three players signed under the Homegrown Player rule have turned 20 and still have plenty of soccer ahead of them. All but two of them are still in MLS and could very well follow in Najar's footsteps. Some of the recent signees include 15-year-olds Diego Fagundez by the New England Revolution and Zach Pfeffer by the Philadelphia Union.
One thing that does seem obvious is that we will continue to see more players and teams use this rule. The incentives are high - teams get to keep 75 percent of any fee they get from the transfer of a Homegrown Player and their salaries don't count against the cap - and risks are minimal - the loss of a roster spot.
|Henry, Doneil||TFC||TFC||Aug 26, 2010||0|
|Lindsay, Nicholas||TFC||TFC||Sep 15, 2010||0|
|Pfeffer, Zach||PHI||PHI||Dec 22, 2010||0|
|Agudelo, Juan||NYRB||NYRB||Mar 26, 2010||2|
|Chirgadze, Giorgi||NYRB||NYRB||Sep 17, 2009||0|
|Fagundez, Diego||NER||NER||Nov 15, 2010||0|
|Kempin, Jon||KC||KC||Aug 31, 2010||0|
|Deric, Tyler (GK)||HOU||HOU||Feb 27, 2009||2|
|Navas, Francisco||HOU||HOU||Mar 5, 2010||1|
|Shanosky, Conor||DC||DC||Aug 13, 2010||0|
|White, Ethan||DC||DC||Dec 14, 2010||0|
|Hamid, Bill (GK)||DC||DC||Sep 2, 2009||8|
|Najar, Andy||DC||DC||Mar 22, 2010||26|
|Leyva, Bryan||DAL||DAL||Jun 20, 2008||0|
|Luna, Ruben||DAL||DAL||Jul 30, 2010||4|
|Armstrong, Davy||COL||COL||Aug 17, 2010||0|
|Pineda, Victor||CHI||CHI||Aug 17, 2010||0|
|Bowen, Tristan||LAG||CHV||Nov 12, 2008||18|
|Borja, Carlos||CHV||CHV||Jul 20, 2006||8|
|Mayen, Gerson||CHV||CHV||Mar 27, 2008||16|
|de la Fuente, Bryan||CHV||CHV||Aug 25, 2010||0|
|Zamora, Cesar||CHV||CHV||May 28, 2009||0|
|Eder Robles,||CHV||None||Sep 17, 2006||0|
|Estuardo Sanchez,||CHV||PDL||Mar 17, 2006||0|