Written by Will Parchman

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Money is flying from clubs’ collective coffers these days at a rate that has largely broken our compass. Whether or not the transfer fees being posted worldwide make economic sense – and maybe they do – they certainly enfeeble our ability to dissect and understand.

So perhaps D.C. United getting to the brink of doubling its transfer record to buy 22-year-old USMNT international Paul Arriola at $3m should not come as a shock of cold water to the system. Arriola’s been on an upward trajectory with Bruce Arena’s national team, has more than 3,000 minutes in LigaMX and, while he hasn’t been asked to score with any volume for club or country, is an able winger. We can quibble about the price, but it only seems enormous for D.C. United. It’s not a huge sum for league teams anymore.

This does, however, put Arriola in some pretty interesting transfer territory. Luciano Acosta, the spritely attacker at the head of D.C. United’s final third danger, was acquired for half that sum less than a year ago. David Accam, Shkelzen Gashi and Hector Villalba were all purchased for less. Nemanja Nikolic and Romain Alessandrini, two of the league’s most dangerous attackers signed within the last year, were right at Arriola’s transfer number.

If nothing else, it would seem the USMNT designator and D.C. United’s desperation drove up the fee considerably. Xolos came out smelling pretty fresh in this deal.

That, it seems, will all be sorted in one way or another. Fees are rising everywhere, and perhaps Arriola’s deal simply signals that advance. We’ll see. I’m far more interested in a seemingly smaller detail that, apparently, has set a new precedent in MLS transfers for Homegrowns.

Arriola, as you’ve probably heard by now, spent some time in the LA Galaxy academy. A brief amount of time. Very brief. While moonlighting for various USYNT age groups, Arriola scored 15 goals in 17 games for SoCal club Arsenal FC during the 2011-12 Development Academy season. The Galaxy, as MLS clubs often do, swooped in and collected Arriola for the 2012-13 season, his last on the club level. Arriola was stretched by national team duty that year, mostly with the U18s, and only played 11 games. On May 3, 2013, Arriola joined Tijuana, and most of this seemed to be moot.

It, apparently, was not.

Isn’t that curious.

This has never happened before, or at least not that I can tell. Until now it’s more or less been an ethereal test case: a player with held Homegrown rights returns to MLS via transfer fee without having signed an MLS contract in the first place. What happens then? Teams have secured Homegrown rights (as Sporting KC did with Josh Sargent) and dealt Homegrown rights (as the Red Bulls did with Adam Najem and the Philadelphia Union this year), but this? Arriola seems to be a test case. And one we didn’t think possible.

Here’s the relevant passage from MLS’s roster rules page.

A club may sign a player to a contract without subjecting him to the MLS SuperDraft if the player has been a member of a club’s youth academy for at least one year and has met the necessary training and retention requirements. Players joining MLS through this mechanism are known as Homegrown Players.

Bolded part for relevance.

We never really knew what this meant, practically. What defines a retention requirement? A couple training sessions per year in the offseason? A greeting card during the holidays? But what it did signify was that Homegrown rights could be lost to time if they were not met. I think a fair reading of this rule is that if you don’t hit a certain threshold, you lose the player’s rights. And Arriola, by this definition, should’ve lost them.

Arriola had been away from the Galaxy for five years, and he’d played all of 11 games with their U18s over a period of about seven months. His first game for the Galaxy academy wasn’t until the middle of October in 2012, and he signed for Xolos in the first week of May. It wasn’t even a full season. Arriola’s ties to the Galaxy are as tenuous as any player designated ‘Homegrown’ in MLS history. And yet the Galaxy are on the business end of $500K in allocation.

Whatever those retention requirements were – I’ve never been able to acquire a firm answer on this – it doesn’t seem to matter now. We have the Arriola Precedent in hand.

This matters. And if it doesn’t as much now, it will in the future. MLS is producing more and more academy players coveted not just by their own technical staffs, and a fair amount of them are already leaking out to foreign leagues before signing at home. Weston McKennie left for Schalke in 2016 before signing a contract with FC Dallas. Say he returns in five years and the Red Bulls, for instance, secure his transfer. It doesn’t seem to have mattered that McKennie had been gone for five years. Under this Arriola Precedent, FCD is owed allocation. Full stop.

The news here is that if you have a Homegrown claim on a player, it doesn’t seem to expire. And, as SKC proved with Sargent, they don’t even need to have played for your academy, just have lived in your Homegrown catchment area. Whether or not MLS has a secondary deterrent to keep teams from simply squatting on the Homegrown rights of dozens of local and regional players it’s never even developed in hopes of collecting future fees, we’ll have to wait to see.

MLS allocation rules are so intricately webbed that they often require real world precedents, much like landmark court cases, to set them in stone. We seem to trip over new scenarios by the year. If this one is the way it appears, MLS clubs who’ve watched academy players fly the coop before signing them, only to have them return years later for another team, will be compensated.

That’s not such a bad thing, even if it does appear to contradict MLS’s own rulebook.

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Written by The 91st

Arriola

Paul Arriola made waves last week when he announced that he was signing with Mexico’s Club Tijuana rather than accepting an offer to stay domestic with the LA Galaxy.

Arriola, the NSCAA 2012 Boys Player of the Year and US Soccer Program youth star, is one of the best young prospects in the country.  His departure from the Galaxy came as a big loss for the club, but Arriola explained to the 91st Minute why he feels it’ll be a gain for him.

“After training with Tijuana in December, then going to preseason with LA in January I was able to get a feel for how I’d fit in at both of the clubs,” Arriola told us. “I made very clear to all of my options (LA Galaxy and UCLA) that I wanted to be a pro and Tijuana was very much an option.”

Biggest factors in your decision were … “The main thing that I want is to continue to develop and grow as a player, I am still young and believe in myself that in a good, professional environment I can continue to develop for the next couple of years and with the Under20 league down there.  The fact that I will get great games down there where I will be pushed to be better (is important).”

 

What connection do you have with Tijuana?

“The Xolos is my home team. Growing up and living in Chula Vista, 10 miles from the border of Tijuana, Xolos fans are everywhere. Everyone in Chula Vista, and I’d say most of San Diego, roots for Xolos.”

 

What are you most looking forward to?

“Being in a professional environment and playing games. Mexico isn’t the easiest places for some people to play in, but I think that the way Club Tijuana is set up they provide a lot more support than most clubs do. I am extremely excited to start the next season and I thank God for the wonderful opportunity that he has given me!

 

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Written by The 91st

U18s in Paris (2)

The U.S. U18 MNT is in Europe for international friendlies against France and will make a stop in Romania over the next ten days. Monday provided the team a chance to take a day off and grab a quick tour of Paris, as evidenced by the photograph above. Pictured are Suliaman Dainkeh, Brian Iloski and Paul Arriola.

 

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Written by The 91st

You know the drill: if you’re hot, then you’re on this list. If you’re not … you’re still on this list. We’re taking the weekly temperature of soccer and other random stuff. Here we go:

 

HOT

1. Indiana men’s soccer. The first program in NCAA history to win two national titles with one win. Moving on to 2014 …

 

2. Paul Arriola. The young LA Galaxy stud got a random email last week that essentially said you’re the best club player in the country and we want to give you a trophy in January. I got a similar email from a foreign prince but after I wired him some money he never got back to me about the treasure he promised. Whatev.

 

3. Lionel Messi. Greatest. Goal. Scorer. Of. All. Time.

 

NOT

1. Manny Pacquiao. ZZZZZZZZ. ZZZZZZ. (Shhhh … let him sleep). ZZZZZZZ.

 

2. Wheelchair basketball brawl. JUST, WHY???

 

3. Appalachian State free throw shooting. This is Brian Okam shooting the worst free throw ever. EVER. Shaquille O’Neal saw this video and reached out to work with him.

 

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Written by The 91st

LA Galaxy forward and US Soccer youth star Paul Arriola has been named the NSCAA 2012 Boys Player of the Year, the standout told the 91st Minute. Arriola will join a host of other top All Americans at the NSCAA Convention next month in Indianapolis where he’ll essentially be crowned as the best youth player in the country.

Arriola, who is ranked in the top 10 of the IMG Academy 150, has long been one of the top prospects in the country. His 2012 has been another banner year that saw him star with the US U18 squad while leading his team to the Development Academy playoffs.

“Coming out of a U17 World Cup in 2011, I thought 2012 was going to be crucial for me to continue to work hard and keep developing as a player without dropping off at all,” Arriola told the 91st Minute. “I was able to do that, so overall I thought 2012 was a good year and hope that I can only continue to grow as a player and as a person in the upcoming years.

In 2011, Arriola overcame a stress fracture to make the U17 squad and has not looked back since. Arriola is committed to UCLA in 2013 but he’s far from done at the youth level.

“It’s an honor to (win this award). It’s great to be recognized for all the hard work and dedication I have had as a young athlete and this is just another step on my journey in my soccer career,” he said. “I can’t thank my family, coaches, friends, and teammates who have pushed me and supported me and most importantly God for the opportunity he has given me.”

 

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