The LA Galaxy has signed Tristan Bowen to a multi-year contract, the club has announced. Bowen, 17, was the first player to join Galaxy Rios, the team's youth development program.
It's very encouraging to see this sort of deal. I have long felt that MLS needed some sort of youth development program and now that we've seen the benefits of that in terms of a contract perhaps it will encourage other teams to consider their own youth players for spots on the roster, be it a senior or developmental spot.
Bowen is a talent as he has been part of the United States Under-20 national team and has received high praise from Galaxy coaches in the past. It's not clear how much he will contribute next year but that he's on the roster and able to train with and have the ability to play for the Galaxy speaks well of both him and the club.
Financial deals were not disclosed but one thing that is and has been a deterrent for youngsters to consider MLS more closely has been the developmental contract. Typically, a talented youngster could have two choices - or three if they are really talented: 1) MLS developmental contract; 2) college or perhaps even 3) foreign offers. Of the three, far and away the least lucrative one is the option 1. If a youngster is talented and has colleges calling for his services with a full-ride scholarship in hand, it would be really tough to pass that by for a 12,900-dollar salary. That's just plain economics. You stand a better chance to have a better future by going to college and learning something even if that isn't the best place to develop soccer skills.
Europe or Mexico would also be preferable to MLS simply because of the money. It may be hard culturally but financially the benefits are strong. Now, MLS teams can offer any player a senior roster spot and more money but would teams be willing to use a roster spot like that on a 17-year-old? Perhaps, but that player would have to be special for MLS teams to do that.
Still, MLS contracts will likely stay the same until the collective bargaining agreement is up in early 2010.
MLS' youth development system still has a long way to go, and financial support and/or freedom from the league would greatly benefit that, but seeing one team's system bear fruit is encouraging.