Box-to-box midfielders who are the targets of top colleges and the US National Team are rare. The Seattle Sounders had one of those players in their U-18 Academy up until a couple months ago. He put up two goals in 12 appearances (10 starts) on a team that is dominating its league. Then college spring soccer started, and Nick Palodichuck enrolled early at Duke University.
Nick, probably with advisement of various coaches, decided to play with Duke during their spring exhibition season. Coaches in this case could be his college coach, his Sounders Academy coach, and maybe even the US Youth Nationals. That eliminated him from eligibility for the Development Academy, but it did not remove his Home Grown Player status.
This weekend the Portland Timbers U-23 PDL team played their first match. Astute observers noted that he put on their dark green kit against Crossfire. The Camas native had in the past some questions about his HGP eligibility.
Palodichuk’s attachment to the Sounders organization is still under question as the player left the club before the one-year period was up required for home grown status. Sounders Academy Technical Director Darren Sawatzky was optimistic that Palodichuk would qualify for the status because the same coaching staff was with him when he was part of the Washington Premier Academy. As of March, MLS has yet to inform Seattle if Palodichuk would be eligible for a Home Grown contract.
When Jeremiah Oshan asked the Sounders about Palodichuk's status, he was told "he is still on the home grown player list." It's not clear if MLS has made an official ruling on his status. But assuming he is approved as a Sounders HGP, that would mean Seattle holds the right of first refusal to the player thereby allowing them the opportunity to sign him to a contract and avoid the MLS SuperDraft. If the player and the team could not come to an agreement, and he tried to enter MLS he would enter as any other college player.
Though Palodichuck spent his formative years within the theoretical catchment area of the Portland Timbers, they did not have an Academy within the USSDA at the time, so he played and trained with the Seattle based Academy instead. Each Academy is allowed two exceptions to the catchment area rule (either 50, 75 or 150 miles from home stadium depending on market size). At the U-18 level it seems clear that Seattle would use this exception on a player of Palodichuck's caliber.
This is pretty much uncharted water for MLS, but it seems unlikely that the Timbers could claim him as one of their HGP's since he never played in their academy. While he is currently playing for the Timbers' U-23 team, the PDL is separate from the academy system. It's also the team located closest to his hometown. If the Sounders are not ultimately allowed to sign him, he would most likely enter the SuperDraft.
Other Academy Note: Over facebook today the Seattle Sounders Academy system announced a "pre-Academy team." While no age was mentioned it is likely a U-14 squad, as the USSDA uses U-18 and U-16 as its breakpoints. This gives earlier entry into the Sounders coaching system, and greater centralization of players for the club. They still operate Regional Training Centers in Everett (North), Yakima&Spokane (East), Tukwila (Central), Puyallup (South), and Southwest areas of Washington State.