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Did FC Dallas have the best academy products in 2014?

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It's been said numerous times that Dallas has the best MLS Academy, so do the stats back it up?

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

***Disclaimer: It's been brought to my attention that the source which provided me with the list of HGPs is wildly inaccurate. So please disregard the stats and basically this whole post. Apologies for the inaccuracy.***

I know FC Dallas has been hailed as having one of the best academies in the country, if not the best, in terms of producing top talent for the professional ranks. The problem with that kind of statement is that it's hard to quantify it. Is it done by the number of signings your team graduates to the first team? Is it the percentage of HGPs in your Starting XI? Do you measure by the quality of your brightest star?

From my understanding of why academies exist, their entire purpose is to educate and develop professional soccer players for the first team. There is also the inevitable where a player just doesn't make the cut for the first team, but is good enough to have a career elsewhere. From a purely numbers perspective, that is probably the most accurate and quantifiable way to measure the quality and success of an academy: the number of professionals that the academy produces. Of course, that means Barcelona's famed La Masia is the best in the world by that standard and Manchester United's academy falls second (based on a study conducted across 98 teams in five European leagues).

Because of time and data constraints, I cannot produce a reasoned argument for the best MLS Academy at the moment. What I can do is pull out the data that gives us an idea of which academy helped its team the most in the 2014 season, and more in particular if FC Dallas did have the best academy for 2014. So without further ado, to the stats!

*Warning - this is a long post with lots of numbers. Skip to the end if you just want me to just get to the point.*

Number of Homegrown Players

Team # of Homegrown Players # of Homegrown Players that Played in 2014 # of Homegrown Keepers
Chicago Fire 4 1 0
Chivas USA 0 0 0
Colorado Rapids 2 2 0
Columbus Crew 5 3 1
DC United 4 1 1
FC Dallas 6 5 1
Houston Dynamo 0 0 0
LA Galaxy 7 2 0
Montreal Impact 7 6 1
New England Revolution 1 1 0
New York Red Bulls 4 2 0
Philadelphia Union 2 0 0
Portland Timbers 0 0 0
Real Salt Lake 5 2 0
San Jose Earthquakes 1 1 0
Seattle Sounders 3 2 0
Sporting Kansas City 3 3 1
Toronto FC 5 2 1
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 7 4 1

I felt the need to include include the total number of GKs each team had on their team as they play in a position that is far much more difficult to break into the first team by sheer number of available positions alone (1 versus 2 strikers or 2 wingers or 2 fullbacks etc).

So based solely on number of HGP signings alone, the LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps lead the way. But as you can see, just signing players doesn't mean anything other than some paperwork was done. The next logical step (at least in my opinion) was to see how many of said signings actually saw the pitch in 2014. Based on number of HGPs that saw the field, then Montreal is also leading the way there.

So why not crown the Montreal Impact as the best? Well... since I'm the incumbent resident stats guru, I wouldn't be doing my job correctly if I didn't dig a little deeper.

HGP 2014 Minutes

Team # of HGPs That Played Total Minutes Average Minutes
Chicago Fire 1 2346 2346
Chivas USA 0 0 n/a
Colorado Rapids 2 3513 1757
Columbus Crew 3 3956 1319
DC United 1 2700 2700
FC Dallas 5 4612 922
Houston Dynamo 0 0 n/a
LA Galaxy 2 2415 1208
Montreal Impact 6 3233 539
New England Revolution 1 1553 1553
New York Red Bulls 2 511 256
Philadelphia Union 0 0 n/a
Portland Timbers 0 0 n/a
Real Salt Lake 2 809 405
San Jose Earthquakes 1 690 690
Seattle Sounders 2 2245 1123
Sporting Kansas City 3 2088 696
Toronto FC 2 169 85
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 4 2352 588

So as you can see, while Montreal did field 6 HGPs in 2014, the combined total of minutes was only 539 (just under a total of 6 matches). Over the course of a 34 game regular season, a player can, in theory, see a total of 3,060 total minutes. So that's not even a significant amount of playing time that any of these players got, at least in terms of volume.

But as you've probably noticed, these averages get really skewed by certain teams like Chicago and DC, who have one HGP but is a stud on the team and plays all the time (Harrison Shipp, Bill Hamid). Then things get even more complicated as teams like LA who has Gyasi Zardes logging in 2392 minutes, followed by Bradford Jamieson pulling the average way down with his 23 minutes. And of course in Dallas' own case, Coy Craft's 6 minute cameo drags the numbers down as well.

That being said though FC Dallas was miles ahead in terms of total minutes played from their HGPs compared to the rest of the league.

Player Stats

HGP Stats

To take things a bit further, I pulled up basic stats for every HGP that saw the pitch in 2014. I then filtered that to only include players that played at least 1,000 minutes (or roughly 1/3 of the season). This puts Dallas and Colorado up on top in terms of having the most HGPs that saw significant playing time in 2014, with Dallas' players logging the most combined minutes. (I'm focusing in on minutes as I haven't developed a method that allows for me to compare players in different positions.)


To summarize this rambling nonsense, in terms of having players play significant minutes for their team, FC Dallas did lead the way among MLS teams. And if the history of Oscar Pareja's body of work as a coach is to continue, the Hoops' will continue to graduate players and graft them into the first team on a consistent basis. (Dallas has signed a league leading 13 players from their Academy.) For 2015 I fully expect FCD to lead the league again in total minutes for HGPs and also take the lead in terms of number of HGPs who saw the pitch as well.  Quantity will not be an issue here, at least not in the foreseeable future. The challenge for Dallas though, is will any of them become big league stars for the team like Yedlin, Zardes and Hamid?