In recent weeks, one of the biggest figures in American youth soccer has been Fernando Clavijo who has moved on to become a director of the Brazilian based company Traffic Sports since leaving his position as head coach of Colorado Rapids.
Traffic is a management company that signs players to acquire their rights. The company then develops the players at one of their three lower level clubs and then attempts to move these players to bigger clubs either by loan or by an outright transfer.
While these types of companies have come under criticism from European coaches, they have become significant in South America. With Traffic now signing four prominent American youth players in Gale Agbossoumonde, Bryan Dominguez, Greg Garza, and Tony Taylor, this type of player development looks to be a growing trend here in the USA.
Clavijo clearly sees this not just as a business opportunity but also a chance to offer young American players proper development.
"What made me interested in joining Traffic is that they truly believe in the American player," Clavijo told Yanks Abroad.
"European clubs are all looking to buy South American players. In the United States, we are missing something. With MLS getting rid of its reserve league last year, it is tough for our young players to get playing time."
"If they don't play, they don't develop. With Traffic , we are trying to fill that gap and offer proper development. We want to develop the proper player."
Traffic either owns or manages three lower level clubs in Miami F.C. of the USL, Estoril of the Portugese second division and a youth and academy team in Porto Feliz, Brazil named Desportivo Brasil.
They are also in the process of developing close relationships with high profile European clubs like Manchester United and Atletico Madrid.
Prior to being loaned or transferred out to major clubs, most players that Traffic sign spend time with at least one of these clubs. This has been the case for Traffic's two most recent American players, Gale Agbossoumonde and Tony Taylor. Both of these players are currently on the USA U20 World Cup team in Egypt and will be looking to rise through the Traffic ranks right after the competition.
"Prior to joining the USA team in Cyprus, [Taylor] spent time with our club, Estoril, in Portugal and they loved him," the former US international informed. "He's clearly a very talented player. We already have interest in him from clubs in England, Portugal, and Italy. After the World Cup in Egypt he will return to Portugal and train [with Estoril]."
"Gale is still very young but there is a lot of interest in him. He played a few games for Miami FC but that was only to get him a few games before meeting up with the USA team. After the World Cup in Egypt he will train with either our team in Portugal or Brazil."
Clavijo is very excited about the professional prospects of both Taylor and Agbossoumonde, hoping that the World Cup will be a great opportunity for them to showcase their talents in front of many scouts.
"With Taylor we have learned that there will be scouts from over 10-15 teams watching him. Gale will have even more. In fact, we already have an offer on the table from a Serie A team for him."
Clavijo insists there is no timeline for moving these players because Traffic wants to make sure the players are ready for such a move and that the club would be a good fit with the player. "There is no rush," Clavijo said. "Any move would happen only if we are 100% confident the club would be a good spot for the player to continue his career."
While Traffic is very new to the American scene, it will look to make an aggressive push in the upcoming months. In addition to the players it has already signed, Clavijo states that Traffic will look to add another three to five American players from either the USA Under-17 or U20 teams by the end of 2009.
Clearly, Traffic's further growth in signing young American stars will be dependent on the success they are able to achieve with those that they have already signed. But right now they are addressing the lack of playing time and proper development, a need that is currently being unmet by MLS, NCAA, and other institutions of American soccer.
"I understand getting rid of the reserve league was a numbers game for MLS," the one-time Haiti boss concluded. "But when you look at the young talented players that are sitting on the bench, it's going to hurt their development."
"I feel that we can offer something better. For me to select the best young USA players [for Traffic ], I have the opportunity to give us something we don't have."