Mississauga resident Ryan James is among 59 students playing soccer at American Division One colleges invited to take part in the Major League Soccer (MLS) player combine starting this week.
Top college players from across the country will showcase their talents in front of the 20 MLS club representatives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from January 7-12. The invited players will be eligible for selection in the 2016 SuperDraft in Baltimore on January 14.
A senior at Bowling Green, James has played in all 79 matches while at the university, making 69 starts. He scored four goals and assisted on five in 19 games this season.
The youngest of three children graduated from Loyola Catholic Secondary School, which he helped win the regional title five years ago. He led the team twice in scoring and was the school’s Athlete of the Year in 2011.
Jamaicans Neco Brett and Vincent Mitchell will also be at the combine.
Brett, a senior forward at Robert Morris University, made history last November by becoming the first three-time Northeast Conference Player of the Year. He led the team in scoring for a third straight season, netting 12 goals – seven were game winners – and five assists for 29 points.
Mitchell transferred to Butler prior to the 2013 season after spending a year at Concordia College in Alabama.
The Manchester High school graduate earned All Big East first team honours after leading the Bulldogs in scoring during the 2015 regular season. The 150-pound midfielder was second in the Big East at 1.75 points per game while posting 26 points from 11 goals and four assists. Mitchell recorded multi-goal matches on three occasions this season, including twice in Big East play.
A mix of collegiate soccer head coaches and MLS Academy staff will make up the combine coaching staff.
Meanwhile, MLS has announced that $37 million will be added to league-wide player compensation during the next two seasons, providing clubs the opportunity to sign more impact players in the middle of the roster and add young homegrown talent.
Each MLS club will receive an additional $800,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) for the 2016 season and an additional $800,000 for the 2017 season. TAM is used by clubs to add depth to their rosters by strategically investing in players that make more than the 2016 maximum budget charge of $457,500 (but who are not Designated Players). Unlike the Designated Player initiative, all MLS clubs are provided an equal amount of funding.
This investment expands the TAM program that was initially announced this summer when each club received $500,000.
“By injecting an additional $37 million into the system, our clubs will be able to strengthen the depth of their rosters by signing more high-quality players,” said MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott. “We saw immediate dividends this past season with the initial investment in Targeted Allocation Money, and our owners believe that additional spending – especially for players who will impact the middle of our rosters – will make MLS even more entertaining and compelling.”
In addition to the increase in Targeted Allocation Money, an incremental $125,000 per season will be made available to each club to sign Homegrown Players. More than 150 Homegrown Players have signed with MLS clubs since the league began its youth development initiative in 2007, and many more are expected to sign first team contracts in the coming years.
“Our academies are developing more first-team players every year, and the additional investment will provide more flexibility to our clubs to sign top young players,” said Todd Durbin, Executive Vice President for Players and Competition. “We have seen former academy players like Gyasi Zardes, Bill Hamid and Wil Trapp become leaders on their clubs, and we expect many more academy players of their caliber to sign with MLS clubs in the coming years.”
The additional TAM must be committed within four transfer windows. As such, the 2016 TAM funds must be applied prior to the conclusion of the 2017 Secondary Transfer Window and the 2017 TAM funds prior to the conclusion of the 2018 Secondary Transfer Window.
By RON FANFAIR