MLS expands rosters, relaunches Reserve Division

Moves are designed to continue to incentivize player development

NEW YORK – The 2010 season is the first in which homegrown players have left their mark in MLS.

D.C. United’s Andy Najar became the youngest Rookie of the Year in US pro sports history, New York’s Juan Agudelo earned a US national team call-up at 17, and 19-year-old Tristan Bowen made an important contribution to the LA Galaxy’s Supporters’ Shield run.

Now the league's player development movement is poised for an even more aggressive push with the launch of the Reserve Division and the unveiling of new roster rules by MLS.

Teams can now sign an unlimited number of homegrown players per season and they have more spots to fit them with squad rosters expanding from 26 to 30 beginning in 2011. However, roster spots 25 through 30 will be specifically allocated to players 24 years old and younger, and they will not count against the salary budget.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber also announced the relaunch of the Reserve Division, where young players will be able to cut their teeth in competitive matches while continuing to train with the first team squad.

MLS Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski and Colorado Rapids forward Omar Cummings both enjoyed breakout seasons in 2010, two years after honing their game in four years of Reserve Division action from 2005 through 2008.

Several MLS clubs have already made a significant investment in youth academies and the moves unveiled on Tuesday are designed to incentivize an even greater emphasis on youth development.

DP, short for Designated Player, has been the most talked about acronym in recent years. But it’s PD, as in Player Development, which continues to build momentum.