Young Americans simply do not have the same kind of access to professional soccer as youth around the world (this despite the fact that the United States is #1 in the world for youth soccer participation). Everyone knows this, but few are willing to do something about it. Generation Adidas sees the writing on the wall just like everyone else, but it has the ambition to try to change the equation.
Around the world, teenage soccer players are snatched up by clubs the moment they show potential. In that moment, they become professionals. Soccer becomes the sole focus of their lives at an age at which their American counterparts are still concerned with school. The United States simply does not see 19-year-old soccer players handed professional contracts, and this is what Generation Adidas seeks to change.
The program provides an opportunity to play professionally in the MLS to promising teenagers. Those who sign a contract with Generation Adidas can then join the MLS, and their salary will not count against the salary cap of whichever team they land on. This is the main lure for MLS franchises, many of whom would not tie up salary space with a player so young when older, more experience players are available.
The program has been incredibly successful at fostering talent since its inception in 1997. It has harbored some of the greatest talents in recent USMNT history. Former players include Tim Howard, Damarcus Beasley, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and Kyle Beckman.
Though the program’s main purpose is to raise the level of youth soccer in the United States, it is not restricted to those born natively. The 2015 Generation Adidas class that was just announced consists of 3 Americans, a Canadian, and a Jamaican. Here are the inductees.
GK Alex Bono – Syracuse (Baldwinsville, N.Y.)
The junior goalkeeper had a standout 2014, earning an NSCAA first-team All-American nod and netting the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award to help the Orange to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
D Conor Donovan – North Carolina State (Fuquay-Varina, N.C.)
Just a freshman, Donovan notched one goal and one assist in 15 total appearances for N.C. State. The US youth international is currently with Tab Ramos and the US U-20s at the CONCACAF U-20 Championships in Jamaica.
F Cyle Larin – UConn (Brampton, Ontario, Canada)
The American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, the sophomore led UConn with nine goals in 2014. Like Donovan, Larin is in Jamaica for the CONCACAF U-20 Championships, where he’ll play for his native Canada.
M Cristian Roldan – Washington (Pico Rivera, Calif.)
The sophomore midfielder enjoyed a strong career at Washington, earning the 2013 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors and a 2014 NSCAA All-American third-team nod while recording 10 goals and seven assists in 41 career games with the Huskies.
F/M Romario Williams – Central Florida (Portmore, Jamaica)
A back-to-back first-team all-conference selection and a Jamaican youth international, Williams bagged seven goals and three assists in 17 appearances in 2014.
Perhaps the master stroke of the Generation Adidas program is the security it provides all of its players. Should any of their professional careers not pan out, the program guarantees its players college scholarships, allowing them to pursue the college education that they put aside as they attempted to become professional soccer players.
Remember those names, people. You might just buy their jersey one day.
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