Not only was the signing of local goalkeeping product Adam Beaudry a big moment for the Colorado Rapids and the Beaudry family, but it was also a pivotal inflection point in the overall soccer player development pathway that may have impact for years to come.
Beaudry was among the first players that triggered a Major League Soccer initiative in partnership with MLS NEXT, the entity that governs MLS Academies. The Development Grant program recognizes the contributions to the professional player pathway through investment in the greater youth development ecosystem.
Local youth side Real Colorado became one of eight MLS NEXT Elite Academies to benefit from the launch of the program after Beaudry inked his first professional deal on January 10, 2024.
“Adam joined us from Real Colorado at the beginning of 2022 as a part of a long-standing relationship between the two clubs. We worked closely with the Real Colorado staff to bring Adam to the academy on a timeline that best supported his development and his goal to play at the professional level. We’re thrilled to see Real Colorado's role in Adam's development recognized by MLS NEXT. We look forward to the ongoing collaboration and work with the local clubs as we seek to identify and develop up-and-coming talent and Colorado's next Homegrown player,” said Chris Cartlidge, Rapids Academy Technical Director.
Per the league, a player must complete the full professional player pathway from MLS NEXT Elite Academy (non-MLS academies) to MLS academy to an eventual first-team contract in order to qualify for a grant through the program. The program has already compensated more than $100,000 to the eight U.S.-based MLS NEXT Elite Academies for producing 10 Homegrown talents. The program also provides the potential to distribute additional compensation when a player appears in a certain number of MLS matches or produces an international transfer fee.
Beaudry competed with Real Colorado from age 9 to 15 before transferring to the Rapids Academy to compete with the U-17s. Shortly after joining the club, Beaudry became a staple of MLS NEXT Pro side Colorado Rapids 2, making his professional debut with the second team on April 30, 2023. Beaudry’s Homegrown signing marked the first time a player has completed the full pathway from Rapids Academy to Rapids 2 to the club’s MLS side, highlighting the significance of the Rapids’ internal player development pipeline.
Beaudry’s involvement in the MLS NEXT Development Grant program speaks to the considerable impact that youth clubs make in the early stages of an athlete’s development. MLS Homegrown players have become significant figures in the pro player pathway with over 70 players signing Homegrown contracts since the beginning of 2023. These players have also had an impact on the MLS NEXT Pro space with 84% of the 2023 Homegrown signings having participated in the league this past season. The 2023 MLS season saw 174 Homegrown players premiere during the regular-season with 87 of those players competing in 50% of MLS regular-season matches.
“This program signals a dramatic shift in the American youth soccer landscape. The premise that professional clubs reinvest at the grassroots level is a vital part of a healthy ecosystem,” said Brian Crookham, Rapids 2 General Manager and Sr. Director of Soccer Development. “The players’ first experiences in the game happen in their local clubs, that is where they develop the passion for the sport and where their talent is first nurtured. When a club is rewarded for cultivating talent and promoting a player into professional programming that they themselves can’t offer, it not only provides opportunity for the promoted player but also provides additional resources and opportunity for the next player.”