Orlando City B’s return to professional soccer will have a very different look than past incarnations, but will still provide several advantages. One of those is that it will help the club sign Homegrown Players.
For most markets, developing your own talent is essential for success in Major League Soccer. The lack of a transfer fee allows these players to be acquired cheaper and they don’t count against the salary budget. Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi has said that he wants the club to acquire more Homegrown Players from the academy. This makes sense considering he comes from FC Dallas, a club that has become well known for developing Homegrown Players for the first team.
While Muzzi can say he wants more HGPs, it’s more difficult in practice. The two parts to signing Homegrown talent for the first team is developing the players and then getting them to sign professional contracts with the club. OCB’s new direction will help the club with both.
The first two seasons of OCB saw the roster primarily made up of first-team players not receiving quality MLS minutes and career United Soccer League guys. This changed immediately upon the announcement of the second team’s return as the club signed 17-year-old Jordan Bender and 15-year-old Luc Granitur to their first professional contracts.
Signing players out of the academy at this age is important because this is during their prime development years. Rather than having these players compete with academy teams featuring players their own age, they’ll be playing with professionals. When the time comes when most players must choose between professional contracts and college, these players will have already made that decision.
This will also allow the club to keep a closer eye on the players and have a bigger hand in their development. While they can follow how they play in college, it’s much easier when they’re playing for the club’s coaches. They’ll be able to better determine if this player will be ready for the first team and that decision can be made at a younger age. If that player develops significantly in those college years, which may happen, having them as part of the club already will give City a greater chance of signing him to a contract rather than seeing him depart.
When it comes to actually signing the players to Homegrown contracts, it’s much easier to sign them prior to them attending college than if they leave the club for a period of time. If a player decides to attend college, there are certain requirements that must be met in order to maintain priority over the player, such as them being on the Homegrown list. The club doesn’t have to worry about any of these regulations that could potentially see them lose the player if they’re already playing with OCB.
From the player’s perspective, athletes in any sport want the teams they play for to think highly of them. Signing these kids to OCB rather than having them go to college will help the club sign their better Homegrown Players as they’ll feel more wanted by the club, as if the club has more faith in them. Having already signed the players to the club, it will be much easier to convince them to sign MLS contracts and avoid them going to a USL team or overseas.
Developing Homegrown Players for the first team is an essential part of building a successful roster, especially for a smaller market and less wealthy club like Orlando. The new direction for OCB will allow the club to better develop players for the professional ranks and increase the chances that they’ll be able to sign these players. Only good will come from this for the club.