Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
When Corey Hertzog was placed in the pool for the MLS Waiver Draft on Monday the move turned heads because the move came just two years after Hertzog was drafted by the New York Red Bulls as a Generation adidas player. The natural question became, “How did a GA player who barely played manage to graduate from the GA program?”
The answer involves a change in Major League Soccer’s approach to GA contracts two years ago, sources told SBI on Tuesday. In 2011, MLS began offering shorter guaranteed portions of Generation adidas contracts to older GA signings (players signed to GA deals as college juniors), with some players being given GA deals that had just two guaranteed years. Now, such players enter their third seasons in the league on option years, options that aren’t likely to be picked up if a player hasn’t made significant progress toward the first team (not when those options are in the low six-figure range).
Hertzog never managed to break into the Red Bulls first team, making just five appearances in two seasons (and none in 2012). He did enjoy an impressive loan stint with the Wilmington Hammerheads of the USL-Pro League, earning Best XI honors and finishing second in USL-Pro in goals scored with nine (and to clarify one passing notion, Hertzog’s time with the Hammerheads had no effect on him graduating from the GA program).
Hertzog’s success in Wilmington still wasn’t enough to convince the Red Bulls or MLS to pick up a six-figure option on his contract, and thus he was let go. Hertzog then went undrafted in the waiver draft. He could still wind up trying out for MLS teams come January (The Philadelphia Union tried claiming him as a homegrown player before the 2011 MLS Draft and Hertzog was seen training with the Red Bulls on Tuesday). If Hertzog does sign he won’t be signing for the kind of money he made in his original Generation adidas contract.
MLS’ move to reduce the guaranteed portion of Generation adidas contracts is in line with the league’s growing desire to direct more resources away from the traditional Generation adidas program (which is used to sign college underclassmen) and toward signing Homegrown Players. An increasing number of college soccer’s elite players are MLS academy products, and MLS is going to need more money to sign those players.
That means the days of the seemingly never-ending Generation adidas deals for prospects who never wind up seeing the field are drawing to a close, which means there is more pressure on teams to make sure they are signing Generation adidas players who are good enough to make an impact in their first two seasons.
Not all Generation adidas deals have seen their guaranteed portion reduced to two years, but it is a safe bet MLS is trying to push contracts in that direction. There should still be longer guaranteed deals for younger prospects, and for the very top prospects in the GA classes, but the number of GA contracts with more than two guaranteed years is being reduced and should continue to dwindle as the league pushes more resources toward Homegrown Player signings.
With that being the case, if teams don’t do a good job of scouting GA signings, and developing once they draft them, they could run the risk of doing what the Red Bulls just did, parting ways with a first-round draft pick after just two seasons and a total of 35 minutes played in MLS.