What is Generation Adidas in MLS? Rules and notable players from system built to elevate U.S. soccer development

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Tajon Buchanan MLS GA
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GOAL provides the key details on Generation Adidas - a key system for the brightest young players hoping to play in MLS.

Generation Adidas is often brought up around the MLS SuperDraft. But it's more than just a sponsorship.

Rather, it's a program, or, more accurately, a designation used to promote some of the best players in collegiate soccer. And in recent years, it has given a platform for some top level pros.

Read on below as GOAL answers some of the key questions about Generation Adidas and its function in the MLS landscape.

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What is Generation Adidas for MLS?

Generation Adidas sponsors and highlights a group of players every year as the best young soccer prospects coming out of college and youth soccer. Usually a group of six to eight players, each Generation Adidas class holds some key advantages over other players who have declared for the MLS SuperDraft.

Notably, all are chosen based on merit, with MLS itself adjusting which college players should be inducted. Most Generation Adidas players are those ineligible for early entry into the MLS SuperDraft, usually because they're too young.

Generation Adidas players make a salary above the league minimum, are guaranteed collegiate scholarships if their career does not pan out and are also exempt from each team's salary budget - meaning franchises can spend big on a young player without having to worry about strict wage restrictions.

How does Generation Adidas work?

Generation Adidas players are designated by the league, with MLS itself choosing the most promising players in college soccer every year. They are not always the outright best, but are usually regarded as those with the highest ceiling.

They tend to go towards the top of the draft - such is their quality for interested teams. For example, all eight Generation Adidas players this year were drafted in the first round. The first five were all part of the 2023 class.

A Generation Adidas tag makes players ineligible for college soccer moving forward. (Those who are drafted without the tag still have the option to return to school.)

Who are the best ever Generation Adidas players?

The system was founded in 1997, but was initially known as Project 40. In the 25 years since, it has produced some of the U.S. men's national team and Canada's best talents.

Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Maurice Edu were all part of the program in its earlier years. More recently, Walker Zimmerman, Tajon Buchanan, Cyle Larin and Jack Harrison have come out of the program.

Who was in the 2023 Generation Adidas class?

The 2023 Generation adidas class was as strong as usual. Though all eight players have potential, No. 2 pick Shakur Mohammed, now officially of Orlando City, could be one to watch. The winger was a product of the Right to Dream academy in Ghana and starred for Duke for two years. No. 1 overall pick Hamady Diop is also promising.

Notably, the first five Generation Adidas selections in 2023 do not have USMNT eligibility.

The full list of 2023 Generation Adidas players is as follows: Joey Akpunono, Joshua Bolma, Moise Bombito, Hamady Diop, CJ Fodrey, Bertin Jacquesson, Shakur Mohammed, J.C. Ngando, Owen O'Malley, Ilijah Paul, Joey Skinner.