Nearly a decade ago, MLS commissioner Don Garber had lunch with Univision executive David Downs. During the meal, an idea came about the opportunity to produce a Spanish-speaking homegrown MLS star. As the idea developed, the two entities decided to create a reality show to air on the popular Univision program República Deportiva that would give young players the opportunity to join an MLS academy, an opportunity that otherwise would likely not exist.
The new project was titled Sueño MLS and would launch its first contest in 2007. Players had the opportunity to tryout in Los Angeles, California with the winner joining the Chivas USA academy. With youth restraints to the contest, organizers decided to make it an amateur competition - not offering the winner a professional contract as not to jeopardize future college eligibility.
While MLS and Univision were launching their new project, 17-year-old Mexican immigrant, Jorge Flores (who since has changed his last name to his mother’s maiden name, Villafaña), was working cleaning churches with his step-father. Having moved to the U.S. two years prior from Pénjamo, Guanajuato in Mexico, the young player was still working on mastering the English language while attending Anaheim High School.
In February of 2007, Villafaña’s step-father heard about the competition that had been envisioned by Garber and Downs and encouraged his step-son to apply. Despite not being one of the 2,000 registrants, Villafaña went to the tryout as one of the 4,000 hopefuls on the waiting list.
After advancing to the finals, Villafaña won the competition and was promptly invited to join the prestigious Chivas USA academy’s U-19 team. Three months after his triumph, the 17-year-old was offered his first professional contract. Six months later he joined the U.S. U-20 national team. And about two years after his victory, Villafaña represented the United States at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
When Villafaña left Chivas USA in 2013, he was the longest serving player at the club having made 86 appearances between 2007 and 2013. Today, the 25-year-old is a starter for the Portland Timbers, playing under Caleb Porter who coached him with the U.S. U-20 national team.
Villafaña has publicly spoken about his experience in Sueño MLS and the opportunity it gave him. He has repeatedly stated that without that opportunity, he wouldn’t be where he is today. Each year, MLS and Univision are looking for the next Jorge Villafaña to become a future MLS star.
2015 Sueño MLS
Villafaña’s story is just the first in a long line of stories that Sueño MLS has given young Latin players. And this year, they’ve brought that opportunity to Orlando where one of three national tryouts will be held this weekend.
With Orlando City SC now in MLS, competition organizers are excited to bring the competition to Central Florida. They know that the state of Florida is full of talented young players who deserve the opportunity to advance their soccer careers. That’s why they will be holding tryouts in Sanford this weekend.
Sueño MLS is a competition consisting of two parts, one for field players and the “Good Hands” goalkeeping contest. Field players between the ages of 14 and 17 will battle for one of five invitations for a week-long trial at a host club’s youth development academy. The five finalists will compete at the National Final in Carson, California. The winner of the competition will be announced live in studio on República Deportiva on Sunday, June 7.
The “Good Hands” goalkeeping contest will see one contestant at each tryout selected as a finalist. The finalists will compete in the National Finals to be named “El Portero Allstate”. The winner of the competition will be announced live on República Deportiva at the end of National Finals week.
It’s not just MLS and Univision that have been supportive of this contest. Several former stars have given their support and insisted to be involved in the program. Some of these stars include former Argentinian international Guillermo Barros Schelotto, former Colombian international Carlos Valderrama, and former Mexican international Pavel Pardo. This year all finalists will have the opportunity to not only meet, but be coached by the Mexican legend.
While registration is full, players can still join the waiting list for an opportunity to gain one of the three walk-on spots just as Villafaña did. Even though only five participants will be chosen to advance to the finals, Orlando City SC scouts will be on hand to scout potential academy players as well.
The Orlando tryouts will be held on Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3, at Seminole Soccer Complex in Sanford, home of Orlando City Youth Soccer.