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Is Orlando Right to Invest in Youth?

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Orlando City's roster is overflowing with youth and long-term prospects, but is this a good strategy? There is a danger of the Lions struggling in their inaugural season, however, their investment could pay off nicely down the road.

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City SC's roster is close to being complete and we have a solid look at who Adrian Heath will have at his disposal for the 2015 MLS campaign. There are still a few players that need to be officially announced and there still may be a few other players coming in, but any new additions won't change the team's makeup very much.

The roster could be described in one word: young.

With an average age of 24.4, Orlando City currently has one of the youngest teams in Major League Soccer. Of course, some of the younger players may go out on loan, so the average might change before the start of the season, but there is a good chance the Lions will be the youngest in the league.

Only Kaka (32), Neal (33), and Ricketts (37) are over the age of 30, so experience will be scarce in the inaugural year. It is inevitable that Heath will need to rely on some of the unseasoned players.

Investing so heavily in youth is a risky game, especially when the first season is so critical for a club. Much of Orlando's fan base will be established in 2015 and an unsuccessful campaign could cause some of the new fans to lose interest.

On the other hand, a young breakout player is one of the most exciting narratives in soccer. So, if just a few of the young Orlando players defy expectations and become successful right out of the gate, the Lions could be a real hit for MLS fans.

Having these promising players at such a young age means their value will only increase over time. While some of these players will simply plateau and become role players for the club, others will develop into valuable assets that can either lead the club or be sold for profit.

Paul Tenorio recently sat down with Orlando City GM Paul McDonough, who spoke about the youth philosophy.

"I think being a first-year team we're trying to balance winning now and building the club for the future," McDonough said. "I think some of the players that we have signed, or are trying to sign, allow us to do both. But to sustain a good team in this league you need to have allocation money, and that means you have to sell players. If we can sign a Bryan Róchez and some of the other guys we're trying to get, develop them and sell them, that'll put the club in a really good position in the next couple of years."

It will certainly be interesting to see if this strategy pans out for McDonough and Orlando City. Although the first few seasons could be a grind, the long term health of City's future is in a great position.

If Orlando was part of the 2014 MLS season, its current roster would have been the youngest in the league.

Team

Avg Age

Youngest Player
1. Vancouver Whitecaps 24.58 Marco Carducci (17)
2. Columbus Crew 25.30 Wil Trapp (21)
3. Sporting KC 25.34 Erik Palmer-Brown (16)
4. FC Dallas 25.41 Kellyn Acosta (18)
5. Philadelphia Union 25.47 Zach Pfeffer (19)
6. D.C. United 25.48 Michael Seaton (17)
7. Toronto FC 25.54 Jordan Hamilton (18)
8. New England Revolution 25.66 Diego Fagundez (19)
9. Real Salt Lake 25.80 Jordan Allen (18)
10. Houston Dynamo 25.84 Bryan Salazar (19)
11. Colorado Rapids 25.88 Charles Eloundou (19)
12. Chicago Fire 26.09 Grant Ward (19)
13. LA Galaxy 26.10 Bradford Jamieson IV (17)
14. Chivas USA 26.23 Caleb Calvert (17)
15. Montreal Impact 26.43 Maxime Crepeau (19)
16. Portland Timbers 26.47 Alvas Powell (19)
17. New York Red Bulls 26.95 Matt Miazga (18)
18. Seattle Sounders 27.17 Aaron Kovar (20)
19. San Jose Earthquakes 27.31 Tommy Thompson (18)

What do you think? Is Orlando City building a club that can win now, or is it too young to compete in its first season?