Last season a small tweetmeme of #TheTrialist started after Seattle Sounders FC reported non-drafted, non-contracted players as "trialist" in their reports of pre-season scrimmages. There were occasions when "Trialist 1" passed to "Trialist 4." Due to Major League Soccer's various player acquisition methods this was done to reduce the chances of said player being claimed prior to Seattle claiming the player as their own.
In previous years the names tended to get out a little earlier, but there was still a feeling among the fanbase that players labeled as trialists would be key acquisitions. Mauro Rosales is the epitome of what these non-drafted/non-contract players can be. Lamar Neagle is probably an example of a stunning success as well. His first year after a successful training camp resulted in Neagle not playing and taking his one-year detour to Charleston of the USL2 and Finland. Sammy Ochoa, although ultimately claimed through the allocation order after a late-season trade, was also a trialist.
But many other trialists and invitees have come through camps. Many of their names are unknown to the general public, most that were known are forgotten. But here's a snapshot of some of the known trialists - Akeem Adams, Kerry Baptiste, Tye Perdido, Cillian Sheridan, Brazilians brought in for a day, rumored players while the team was in Spain, visits while in Argentina. Trialists will always be exciting due to their unknowable resumes granting us all the ability to paint them as the most amazing player in the history of MLS.
But, just like last year, this organization is unlikely to take a major step forward based on the success of a trialist. Mauro Rosales-type situations are extraordinarily rare. It is more likely that a player takes a step forward in their development to become a key player than an unknown, not yet worthy of contract, available on no transfer fee player from the hinterlands of global soccer come in and make a difference.
With preseason starting up in full on Thursday the story of the drafted players and trialists competing for a spot or two will be followed. Probably more important will be how the generally young returning veterans can improve through off-season conditioning and coaching. Another storyline will be the integration of how the new contracted players integrate into the team. The most important tale, though maybe not on the field, will be the health of Steve Zakuani and O'Brian White.