From A(gudelo) to Z(ardes): The 7 best Homegrown Players in MLS history

Homegrown stars dominate MLS' part of our #CONCACAF2020. Here are the initiative's most successful products.

Maxwell Kruger-USA TODAY Sports
Maxwell Kruger-USA TODAY Sports

Since Major League Soccer in 2008 introduced its Homegrown Player initiative, around 175 players have made the jump from the youth side into the first team.

It doesn't always lead where desired. Plenty of HGPs disappeared without seeing a moment of MLS play, and a lot struggled to find regular playing time. But on occasion, it works: a World Cup, an Olympics, hundreds of MLS appearances, dozens of goals, and at least a half-dozen international careers, so far.

Which homegrowns have made the greatest impacts? Enjoyed the most success, Delighted us the most? Here are the seven best.

7. JUAN AGUDELO

The Colombian-born, New Jersey-raised attacker was a most singular talent when the New York Red Bulls, after a trial (and reported contract) with Millonarios led nowhere, pulled him up from its academy in 2010. That talent got him to the U.S. men’s national team, where he won 16 caps before he turned 20.

He was inventive, had the guts to try things others wouldn't and the skill to pull it off. But he was wasted in Hans Backe's strict system, could do only so much as Chivas USA faltered, and after a nice initial half-season with New England, wasted six months in Europe, unable to get a work permit in England.

Agudelo, 24, is just hitting his stride now with the Revolution, partnering Kei Kamara and Lee Nguyen up top, and has netted a dozen goals in his last 18 games. He played in the national team's friendlies to open the year, and another call-up, likely for the Gold Cup, is coming.

6. WIL TRAPP

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

There are tougher, more biting holding midfielders in MLS, but good luck finding one as adept at reading the game, running the game, or regulating his team's game.

Trapp, just 24, is a born leader possessing a preternatural sense of what's what on the field, and that's at the center of everything Columbus does. He's the first homegrown captain the league has seen, and in the wake of Michael Parkhurst’s departure, the former vice-captain was the natural choice for the post.

He's a Columbus boy, grew up watching Crew games, and joined the academy at 15. In 2012, he signed a homegrown deal after his sophomore season at the University of Akron, and he has been a fixture in the XI since midway through his rookie season.

He's a blindingly intelligent player, expert at setting a pace, and is revered around the league for his vision and his ability to deliver the perfect pass, no matter the situation nor distance. And Trapp, who has two caps, is a decent ballwinner, too, although it's his ability to direct the attack that's so valuable.

5. BILL HAMID

Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

The big, athletic goalkeeper is the only Homegrown Player to make an MLS Best XI, when he was the league's Goalkeeper of the Year in 2014 and the heir apparent to Tim Howard and Brad Guzan before injuries slowed his ascent.

D.C. United made Hamid, 26, its first homegrown signing back in September 2009, and he's in his seventh season as the No. 1 netminder. He's the youngest goalkeeper in MLS history to win a game (just 19, in 2010) and the first HGP to 100 league games. No other HGP can match his 170 regular-season appearances, all starts. At his best, he's absolutely dominant, a supreme shot-stopper with great size (6-foot-3) and quickness, and he's so often kept D.C. United in games it didn't belong.

Hamid was lights out in 2014-15, with 211 saves (77 percent of what he faced), a 1.14 goals-against average and 18 shutouts over 55 matches. He's become more consistent and a better distributor over time, but a series of untimely injuries, few of them major, have cost him opportunities with the national team and dropped him in the pecking order.

He's got just two caps but was the de facto No. 3 for several years under Jurgen Klinsmann. If he could stay healthy, there's no reason he can't be America's No. 1 when Howard is done.

NEXT: USMNT IMPACTS AND FOREIGN-BORN UPSTARTS