Both Wil Trapp and Matt Lampson received an exciting piece of news this afternoon with the announcement that they are headed to Portland to play in the first-ever Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game. While the recognition is certainly a point of pride for both players, it's also a point of pride for the Crew Soccer Academy, the mechanism that aims to develop talent and produce Homegrown signees for the club.
"It's fantastic, obviously," said Andrew Arthurs, the Crew's Sr. Vice President of Soccer Business Development and the Executive Director of Crew Juniors. "We're extremely proud of all of our Homegrowns in general, and to have these two selected to play alongside the other top young players in the League is really exciting. We're really proud of them."
The Crew is tied with FC Dallas for the most current Homegrown signees in the League, with seven. That's a fact that isn't lost on Arthurs, who said that he wouldn't have been surprised had a few other deserving Crew candidates been selected.
"[Having the League's highest number of Homegrown Players] means a lot to us, obviously," said Arthurs. "Dallas does a terrific job; they're one of the top soccer markets in the country for sure in terms of participation and quality. For us, Columbus and the state of Ohio, which is our home territory, we have to do things a little bit differently. That it's working is really encouraging, and that it compares well to the bigger markets is great."
With emphasis on youth development in the USA, Arthurs expects the importance of Homegrown signees to increase in future MLS seasons.
"You're only going to see more of that moving forward. With the World Cup and what some of the young players have done there, [such as] Yedlin from Seattle, we need all of the MLS youth academies to really set the standard from a youth development perspective, in conjunction with our youth National Teams. For me, having been there starting the program, to see where it's come in eight years is very cool, but the next three, four, five, ten years, it's going to zoom forward."
Arthurs added that the club's Academy is in a great position over those next several years.
"So much time has been spent previously on building the system, and we're always going to be tweaking it administratively, operationally, technically – but I think the infrastructure is there. We're set up and now we have a track record and a resume that we can point to and say, 'Hey, we've produced this number of college players, this number of youth National Team players, this number of professional players,' where eight years ago it was in theory. We can check some of those things off the list and say that we've accomplished some of them and that it truly is a place for players with professional and National Team aspirations."