How Davies sale to Bayern Munich provides blueprint for other MLS clubs, young talent

Yahoo Sports
Whitecaps teen sensation Alphonso Davies is on his way to Bayern Munich. (Getty)
Whitecaps teen sensation Alphonso Davies is on his way to Bayern Munich. (Getty)

Teenage sensation Alphonso Davies is headed to Bayern Munich from MLS club Vancouver Whitecaps, multiple sources confirmed Tuesday to Yahoo Sports.   

When all is said and done, the sale of the Canadian forward’s contract could be worth well north of $20 million, according to a league source. The initial transfer fee of $13.4 million smashes MLS’s previous transfer record of $10 million set when Jozy Altidore moved from the New York Red Bulls to Spanish club Villarreal a decade ago. It could increase to almost $22 million depending on Davies’ performance in the Bundesliga. A sell-on clause in the agreement could push the final return even higher, the source said.

Davies, 17, will remain with the Whitecaps until the end of the MLS season. He’ll formally join Bayern when the transfer window for European teams opens on Jan. 1, about two months after his 18th birthday, meaning Davies will be eligible to play for the German champions upon his arrival.  

Bayern beat out several other top-end clubs to Davies’ signature. But the deal is an even bigger coup for Vancouver and MLS.

The Whitecaps began scouting Davies in his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta more than four years ago. Their persistence finally convinced the player’s family – refugees from war-torn Liberia who moved to Canada when Davies was 5 – to enroll Davies in the club’s residency academy. Head coach Carl Robinson promoted him to the first team at 15.

Playing for Canada’s senior national team last year, his first as a full-time professional, he led the CONCACAF Gold Cup in scoring. This year he’s been the Whitecaps’ best player, and one of the most electrifying talents in MLS.

“When he broke into the team, people said he wasn’t ready, he wasn’t good enough, what are you doing, he’s only 15,” Robinson told Yahoo in a recent interview. “The reason he’s played such a big role this year is because of the development he’s had over 18 months, because of the way we’ve nurtured him.”

The result is the biggest development success story in MLS’s 22-year history. It comes at an important time for a number of reasons.

MLS has invested heavily in youth development over the last decade. Each of the league’s 23 teams is required to offer a no-cost academy program for aspiring professionals, like most European and South American clubs do, and these talent mills have slowly begun to graduate young players who can be difference-makers in MLS and elsewhere. Vancouver’s setup is one of the league’s best.

Davies is now the program’s poster child, an example of how the system is supposed to work. He started out as an academy player, then signed a professional contract with Vancouver’s lower-division United Soccer League side the following year. He soon played his way into the Whitecaps first team. Once he got there, he was painstakingly brought along by Robinson, who toggled Davies back and forth between the senior and USL team, even sending him back to his peers in the academy when he sensed the youngster needed a break from the grind of being a full-time athlete. All the while he lived with the same billet family in Vancouver, providing the youngster with another layer of stability.

Now he’s off to one of the best teams in the world for a king’s ransom. And thanks to a rule change introduced last winter that’s designed to incentivize even more investment into youth development, the Whitecaps will keep every cent of the record haul rather than having to share a portion of it with the league office. A significant chunk of that cash figures to funnel back into the academy program that helped produce Davies in the first place. The hope is that this virtuous cycle continues in Vancouver, and that other MLS teams take notice of the profit potential that exists when the proper steps are taken.

Bayern Munich manager Niko Kovač will get to coach Alphonso Davies starting January 1. (Getty)
Bayern Munich manager Niko Kovač will get to coach Alphonso Davies starting January 1. (Getty)

The impact of Davies’ move can’t be overstated after FC Dallas watched Weston McKennie, who spent seven years in FCD’s academy, turn down a contract offer in 2016 and sign with Germany’s Schalke instead, denying them any compensation for his training. MLS commissioner Don Garber rued the trend in a recent interview.

“Many young players are leaving the United States from our academy programs because they think it’s more competitive over there,” Garber told Yahoo last month. “We need to create the most competitive environment possible to ensure that every player earns his spot in the first team.”

Davies was forced to earn everything he got in Vancouver, and it was no accident. Those lessons will serve him well in Munich, where he’s hoping to make an impact right away. Any success he has there will reflect well on the league, while Vancouver, which has never won a playoff game in seven MLS seasons, gets rewarded handsomely for having the discipline not to exploit their young starlet and bring Davies along at exactly the right pace.

They even get to keep him for a farewell tour, selling a few extra tickets along the way, and creating a roadmap for every other MLS team in the process.

Doug McIntyre covers soccer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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