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Major League Soccer is starting to see more and more benefits from its teams academy programs. While D.C. United's Andy Najar and the Los Angeles Galaxy's Tristan Bowen play key roles for their teams, other MLS squads are joining the race to bring up homegrown talent.
The Chicago Fire and Colorado Rapids both signed their first homegrown players this week, with the Fire unveiling midfielder Victor Pineda (pictured) today and the Rapids introducing midfielder Davy Armstrong on Monday.
D.C. United, the first team to have two academy players play for the first team, continued to be among the league's leader in developing talent after adding U.S. Under-20 midfielder Conor Shanosky to the squad on Monday. Shanosky joins fellow academy products Najar and goalkeeper Bill Hamid on the D.C. roster.
A long-time U.S. youth national team prospect, Pineda has been recently called up by the U.S. Under-18 national team. Shanosky impressed on the recent Under-20 national team that won the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland.
None of the signings are eligible to play in MLS in 2010, but can train with their clubs and become eligible in 2011.
This current wave of signings come two weeks after FC Dallas signed three academy products to professional contracts. Ruben Luna, Victor Ulloa and Moises Fernandez joined Bryan Leyva on the team's books, making FC Dallas the first team to have four homegrown players sign professional contracts.
The recent flurry of academy player signings is sure to put pressure on teams throughout MLS to identify and develop talent as quickly as teams such as D.C., FC Dallas, Chicago and the New York Red Bulls.
While it won't get as much publicity as the influx of Designated Players coming into MLS, the wave of homegrown player signings as arguably just as important a sign for a growing league that desperately needs to grow its talent pool.
What do you think of this news? Eager to see more youngsters making impacts like Najar and Bowen? Hoping your team brings up academy players soon?
Share your thoughts below.