WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 25: Andy Najar  of D.C. United controls the ball against the Houston Dynamo at RFK Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Washington, DC. Houston won 3-1. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)

Pending a rubber stamp from the Board of Governors, MLS will lift the current restrictions on the number of academy (home grown) players teams can sign to their roster in a given year.

First it was two, then it was four, and soon it will be "as many as you can churn out."

Removing the Home Grown Player restrictions is a big step forward symbolically. Without a limit on the number of academy products they can sign, MLS have new incentive to invest seriously in player development. Home grown players don't count against the salary cap (at the moment), meaning that, in principle, a productive academy could increase a team's buying power dramatically.

By removing the restriction, MLS is making it clear that they're serious about developing their own talent.

Practically, lifting the restriction will probably have little real impact in the short term. Most, if not all, MLS clubs are not currently capable of finding and developing more than the four academy signings they were allowed previously. Even if teams develop the ability in short order, roster numbers will dictate that only a few are brought up to the senior team in any given year.  Essentially, no restriction is needed because the system will restrict itself.

That being said, this decision is another blow to the importance of the SuperDraft. While Generation Adidas players will still have value because their salaries also don't hit the salary cap, other college talent will find it more difficult to stick with the teams that draft them. Why keep a twenty-two year rookie who must be indoctrinated into the system when a younger player you've groomed yourself is available? College soccer will serve as a supplier of professionals for the foreseeable future, particularly because the country is so big, but the death of the draft as the foremost talent source is on the horizon.

The return of the reserve league next season means MLS teams can sign their academy products to the senior team with a means to complete their transition from amateur to professional. The two developments together, the ability to sign home grown players when their talents merit a move to full professional plus the operational reserve league providing legitimate competition, give the academy movement real teeth for the first time. Players like Andy Najar are exceedingly rare; giving young players an opportunity to play will increase the likelihood they'll be signed in the first place, and playing in the reserve league will allow them to improve while on the senior roster. That bodes well for the League.

The reaction to this news hasn't, generally speaking, been commensurate with its likely immediate impact. Again, the practical issue of producing players ready for MLS in numbers large enough to take advantage of there being no restrictions and the size of MLS rosters makes it unlikely we'll see a sudden rash of academy signings above the old limit of four per season per team.

Nevertheless, the League is clearly taking steps meant to make it self-sufficient.

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