Signing a Homegrown Player (HGP) is a big deal for MLS clubs. It makes a statement to the local youth soccer community that they are a part of the organization; it can provide quality players off the cap; it also is in essence a free draft pick. There is a reason why eighty-five or so players have been signed using the HGP mechanism.
(F)HOMEGROWN PLAYER SIGNINGS
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.
That acquisition method is subject to a bit of a limit though. Only two players at any time can have sizable contracts with benefits like paying for college post career.
Clubs may sign up to two Homegrown Players contracts above the minimum salary and similar to Generation adidas player contract amounts.
Other HGPs are stuck at, or quite close to, the dual minimum salaries (in 2013 these were $46,500 and $35,125). An interesting note is that somewhere between 10 and 15 MLS teams are already at their limit on those two hybrid deals (not all 50k HGP contracts are of that hybrid HGP/GA nature). A rule change seems likely as it will mean that top youth talent will be lost to foreign leagues, available in the draft despite development by an MLS club or that HGPs on current rosters will be cut to make way for new talent purely to keep in rules alignment and not due to their ability to play soccer.
These nuances and rules are important when understanding the future of Seattle Sounders FC's potential HGPs. The top three players are all at quality schools, on scholarship. Aaron Kovar (LM), Jordan Morris (F) and Sean Okoli (F) are all also talents that should be playing in the pros soon.
To the best of my knowledge DeAndre Yedlin is already on a hybrid HGP/GA deal. So despite all three of those players being first round talents, or so, all three are highly unlikely to sign. The hybrid deals are essentially first round payment levels. Alumni from Seattle's system are also sprinkled at late round talent levels that could be ready to sign this offseason as well - Darwin Jones (F) and Troy Peterson (CM).
Unlike in the past, HGPs are playing. Six put in 2000 or more minutes in 2013. Another 14 earned more than 1000 minutes this last season. While 22 of the 56 non-loaned players earned zero minutes several of those were keepers and a few others were injured for the entire season.
Signing and wasting young talent seems to be a thing of the past. Whether through affiliations or standard loans ten players went to lower divisions to get more polish on their game.
There are advantages that local signings have that draft picks don't. There is the minor cap relief. Only two-thirds of HGPs make more than the league minimums. On average HGPs make 61k. The median is just under 54k.. They know the system of the organization. The organization already knows them.
At this point it is fair to ask - if a player is a second or third level talent and school is not their thing shouldn't they sign? Players at that level in the draft are gambles, so are the HGPs. But more than half of the HGPs signed over the short existence of the program are playing right now.
If the rules get loosened Seattle has up to five players ready to compete for playing time now. But as the current rules stand don't expect more than two or three to sign.