As with everything MLS I shake my head at the media always expressing classic cliche lines like this 18 year old player is pro ready with are friend Ives or MLSSoccer.com being the worse at this. A NBA comparison to MLS draft analysis is Paul Sturgess should be to top rated prospect in Basketball not because of what he's done but because he is 7 foot 7. Although I would just blame paper talk for being stupid but then the draft comes and the MLS gives many of these players GA contracts and they are drafted.
Common Sense tells me GA is a failed system mainly because MLS does not sell players, there is not a huge demand for US players in leagues outside the MLS and with such limited resources/time being used by MLS in scouting investing in potential is destined to be an expensive mistake.
Yes there are exception like Adu and Shea but since 1997 the MLS has given 172 players GA status which includes guarantee contracts that are higher than most establish players in the league. On average during their first season these players have played 12 games and 769 minutes. Career Stats are not much better with an average 78 total games and 4846 minutes.
Although I think the most interesting comparison is when you compare these GA players to Seniors players drafted in the exact same draft. Since 2007, when the MLS started releasing player salaries, of the top 120 players drafted 53 have been GA's and 67 Seniors. Of those picks the league paid the GA's a guarantee of $6,369,202 compared to the seniors who got $3,257,990 for their first season of play. The GA's played a total of 758 games and 47746 minutes in their first season compared to the the Seniors who played 1197 games and 77334 minutes. In the second season the GA's played 750 games/50929 to Seniors 957/62427 and third season in the league GA's 547/38239 to Seniors 765/55269 and so far career totals are GA's 2591 games and 177052 minutes to seniors 3913 games to 271212 minutes.
Here are a GA/Senior player comparison breakdown since 2007
Looking beyond the stats you can look at player market value, Transfermarkt.de has GA and Seniors currently equal in regards to Total player value. Which completely contradicts the MLS GA campaign since the main reason we have the GA system in place is so the MLS can protect it's rights of these NCAA/US base players on the open football market.
I'm actually a strong supporter of the US college system as a development league for the MLS and those who disagree I believe don't understand the professional game. Professional soccer isn't a sport played by 17/18 years old like all professional sport it's a sport played by Men.The average age for a professional soccer player in leagues around the World is 25 years of age. Your average senior complete his college career around 22 which a normal time to start a pro career well a GA is 19 which is young for a professional. For example Last season the EPL only had 7 players under 21 play more than 20 games - (Phil Jones, Steven Caulker, Victor Moses, Aaron Ramsey, Grant Hanley, Davide Santon and Jason Lowe) where the MLS had 15 players do the same this season (Diego Fagúndez, Luis Gil, Andy Nájar, Jack McInerney, Fabián Castillo, Kevin Rowe, Juan Agudelo, Perry Kitchen, Andrew Wenger, Gershon Koffie, Danny Mwanga, Reggie Lambe, Ashtone Morgan, Amobi Okugo, and Zac MacMath). The reason clubs play young players is not to bring success on the pitch but to increase the exposure of players for the transfer market. So the fact the MLS is encouraging the signing and playing of young players but at the same time not actively trying to sell these players provides me just another example the league doesn't fully understand the global game.
Since the MLS doesn't have a proper youth or reserve league or loan system a complete college career can give scouts around 100 games of visual and statistical data to evaluate a players potential pro career and based on the numbers above the league has saved over $3,000,000 by doing this. So my view is if scouted correctly the college game can provide a great resource in finding talent although we need to get rid of the GA system since players need to be evaluated on performance and no longer speculation especially by so called authority who know very little about the game.
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