Academies have taken over the national player development and talent acquisition landscape. For the Philadelphia Union, the spoils of partnerships with prolific local clubs has paid dividends in the forms of three Home Grown Players in the team's first three seasons of existence.
The franchise's pipeline is full of potential future Home Grown Players, and Chris Gomez is one of the brightest prospects in the entire system.
Gomez openly discussed his future with the Brotherly Game, exhibiting a maturity well beyond his years throughout the interview. The current American youth international, featuring defensively for the under-15 United States Men's National Team, has trials with La Liga clubs Malaga CF and Sevilla FC next month.
While participating in a program called USG, the Spanish teams saw Gomez and other youth prospects perform and he was one of a few players who intrigued the scouts.
"With four other kids from the U.S. I got selected!" said Gomez. "Malaga and Sevilla are looking to sign us and keep us there or have us come every few months to keep training and sign us into future."
However, Gomez was still open to signing with his local team, the Philadelphia Union, if those trials didn't amount to contracts or if the Major League Soccer side wanted to bring him into the first team.
"Yes, I could be available to sign a Home Grown Player contract," Gomez said, "and it's something that might be brought up in the future, as my dad has talked to Jim Curtin about how the whole system works."
"I would love the chance to jump into Europe before MLS, but I would love either opportunity," added Gomez. "I'm very close with Phil Karn, Iain Munro, Jim Curtin and Brendan Burke, as they are the ones who train me.I would also love to attend a Division I college on a full ride as well, so it's a hard decision."
The left back - he also enthusiastically divulged that he can play equally as well as a left wingback, something that current Union head coach John Hackworth likes for his lineups - has experience at almost every level of the Union's academy system since joining it at 12.
"I love attacking down the left side, it's been my position since I was a little boy," Gomez said. "I've been in the union system since I was 12, starting off in the union juniors and for the past two years I have been on the under-16 and under-18 academy [teams]."
An interesting twist in Gomez's future, beyond at the club level, will come in the form of a possible decision between the country he has lived in and the one from which his parents both were born.
"I do not have dual citizenship," Gomez said in response to a question concerning his ability and citizenship to play overseas, "and my parents are from Colombia. I have been with the under-14 and under-15 US National Teams the past two years, but the Colombian national team is also a possibility."