There are a ton of questions about the HomeGrown Player (HGP) Rule. Most can be answered at the MLSSoccer.com Rules and Regulations page, but there are a few specifics that deserve additional attention.
Clubs may sign up to two Homegrown Players contracts above the minimum salary and similar to Generation adidas player contract amounts.
All HGP deals are off the cap, but only two at a time are significantly off the cap hit for a team. The rest are between the two minimum salary numbers. It's decent money for someone who hasn't graduated college, or in their first year in the work force, but it isn't life changing. Again, two players can get that.
Scroll down to (F) on that link and the league provides a bit more about who qualifies;
A club may sign a player to his first professional contract without subjecting him to the MLS SuperDraft if the player has trained for at least one year in the club’s youth development program and has met the League’s Homegrown Player criteria. Players joining MLS through this mechanism are known as Homegrown Players.There is no limit to the number of Homegrown Players a club may sign in a given year.
Further rules stipulate that the player can not have been called up to national team duty prior to training in the Academy system of the team, there are a minimum number of hours of training to be led by team staff in a year, there is a list of players that a specific team claims in each age group (U14, U16, U18, U23 - there may be a U20 level but there is conflicting info on this) and only two players per age can be from outside the catchment area for the team (for the Sounders that is WA minus Clark County).
That catchment area thing can be rather expansive for some teams (KC gets all of KC, Missouri and some other territory in the Plains) and tiny for others (LA, Chivas and New York being the tightest). They are generally population balanced with Salt Lake getting the largest except due to their unique residency in Casa Grande.
There is also a ton of as yet to get public minutiae and exceptions that have been used previously. Both the Galaxy and Timbers have taken advantage of those situations. Still there are plenty of claims that get rejected.
The list of total HGPs is just 60. The list of difference makers is smaller, but also growing. Hamid, Najar and Agudelo are clearly the best. The dozens already out of the league and the couple dozen more that never play are the unfortunate norm.
So in these circumstances with an Academy system now in its third season Adrian Hanauer may be looking to sign the club's first HGP. Some of those players are more ready now, while others eligible have higher peaks but are would see less time in a two deep depth chart right now.
An example of a player who is fairly ready now would be Darwin Jones. He's got the speed and even the strength on his small frame to compete in MLS. But his peak is probably very Fucito-like. He'd be on a roster and on the right roster get many minutes and maybe have a good year or two or even three (he's young still).
On the opposite spectrum would be someone like a Nick Palodichuk or Ian Lange. These two players have plenty going for them. Both are without a position in college. Nick P slid up top this year to become more of a forward rather than the box-to-box mid he was in his U18 days. Lange is drifting about even more which should help his on ball skills, but in the 18s he was a centerback. Both can be good MLS players if their developmental curves continue. Lange could be a Geoff Cameron-ish type. Nick would be more like a Brad Evans with better finishing. In both cases these are absolute peaks. It is highly unlikely, but oh so desired, that they hit that level of player.
In between the now/peak is someone like DeAndre Yedlin. Akron just got knocked out of the NCAA tourney and Porter is heading to Portland. Yedlin is about as good with the ball as anyone else at his age in the USA. His on ball defense is decent enough for a right back. The main question is about his tactical awareness, but that may be done developing if he stays in college due to the level of competition. Yedlin may be the type of player who needs an HGP deal to push his limitations to further his soccer education.
Throughout the potential HGPs there are question marks. Some have "young people skills" and need to learn more about tactics. Others are without the size to compete in MLS now, maybe ever. There are a few who place a higher premium on their post-soccer career and so would look to continue their education as long as possible. Some are positionally drifting at a time when they should be maximizing their skill set.
But all those limitations are true for players currently in the League. Some players with the above limitations are actually quality talents. MLS is about finding ways to maximize a player's contributions and limiting their weaknesses. Sigi's system is all about this. With that awareness if an HGP is signed this offseason be ready to watch a player who is most likely to fail, but when that first one succeeds (maybe even the first one) it will be made even more special because of they are from right down the street from you.
Every single one of the Academy players and alumni are already Sounders. That will be true with or without a first team contract.