How MLS stiffed FC Dallas out of signing Chris Cappis

Chris Cappis, FCD U19
Chris Cappis playing for the FC Dallas U19s (Arman Kafai / 3rd Degree)

One of the standout prospects to come out of the FC Dallas Academy this past season was midfielder Christian (Chris) Cappis. Despite the player’s desire to sign with FC Dallas and the club’s desire to sign the player to a Homegrown deal, MLS has intervened and prevented the move.

According to our sources, Cappis is instead going to sign with Hobro IK in Denmark where he has recently played in a couple of reserve games as a trialist.

Who is Chris Cappis?

Cappis, or Capi’ as he’s often called around the FC Dallas complex, first came to most observers’ attention when he and Chris Richards won the 2016-17 US Developmental Academy U17/18 Championship with Texans SC of Houston. A no. 8 style linking midfielder, Cappis was named Central Conference Player of the Year that title season.

Following their Championship, Texans SC head coach and director Eric Quill (former MLS player), knowing it was time for his two star players to take the next step, helped facilitate a move for both Richards and Cappis to the FC Dallas Academy after FCD’s academy director Luchi Gonzalez reached out.

The obvious goal was for both players to receive high-level pro training, as FCD often incorporates U19s into their pro sessions, with the goal each player might be able to earn a Homegrown contract. Any player must be at an MLS team’s Academy for a year before they can sign as a Homegrown.

Chris Cappis (left), Jesus Ferreira (#27), and Brandon Servania (right) await kickoff against Solar SC in Developmental Academy play. (5-6-18)(Dan Crooke / 3rd Degree)

While there was no guarantee of a deal, both Cappis and Richards played well enough that FCD wanted to sign them. Richards was named 2017-18 Central Conference Player of the Year and Cappis was named to the Central Conference Best XI. Both have also been in multiple US youth national team camps this year.

The 6’1″ Cappis’ best position is as a box to box linking midfielder where he controls the game.  He’s smooth on the ball, has great range, is a terrific passer, and can score (8 goals in 27 games in the 2017-18 DA season).  Blessed with a high soccer IQ, I’ve personally witnessed Cappis play left back, center back, holding mid, linking mid, right wing, and striker for the FCD U19s. Perhaps his best qualities are his leadership and will to win.

My favorite Cappis story involves the US U20s and FCD.  Cappis missed some of the early round games in this year’s Dallas Cup as he was called to the US U20s in Spain to replace Paxton Pomykal who FCD kept home to be part of the 18 man roster for some MLS games.  At the end of the US camp, Cappis took a 16-hour flight back to Dallas landing about three hours before the FCD 19s were set to play their final group game against Queretaro.  FCD planned to rest Cappis but he insisted on playing. Not only did he play he completely dominated the game.

U19 coach and FCD’s VP of Youth Soccer Chris Hayden said of the performance “We had Chris Cappis come off of a plane from Spain and give the performance of the tournament so that I’m really pleased about.”

So FC Dallas decided to sign both players at the end of the 2017-18 DA season. Richards, being originally from Alabama, was no problem and quickly signed. Cappis though, being from Houston, ran into an MLS rule issue.

The Homegrown Territory Rule.

You see, MLS also has a rule called the Homegrown Territory rule. This rule basically states that players within a certain distance of an MLS Academy can only sign a Homegrown deal with that team. So when FC Dallas attempted to sign Cappis, Houston Dynamo, justifiably in their eyes, filed a complaint claiming a desire to sign Cappis themselves.

Cappis though has never played for Houston Dynamo’s Academy, never had any interest in playing for Dynamo’s Academy, and still doesn’t want to sign with Dynamo. He most certainly never played the required year for their Academy which would allow him to sign a Homegrown deal. So exactly what method Dynamo would use to sign Cappis remains a mystery.

Chris Cappis on the ball playing for the FC Dallas Academy U19s. (FC Dallas / FC Dallas)

There are a few MLS clubs that don’t like this Homegrown Territory rule and its repeal is currently up for discussion inside the league. If the rule does get changed, we should call this the Chris Cappis rule.

Some MLS followers worry that the repeal of the Homegrown Territory rule will allow big market, rich clubs to “steal” players from small ones. That’s certainly possible. It’s also possible players might tend to migrate to clubs with great Academy records for not just signing Homegrowns but also developing their game and selling them on to bigger stages (Mexico, Europe, etc.). Clubs like FC Dallas, Vancouver Whitecaps, and Real Salt Lake for example.

The other side to that argument is the mid-tier talent kids. Let’s say you’re the 10th best player at an Academy, perhaps one like FC Dallas with tons of talent, but maybe you’re the second-best #10. Your Academy may not be that much interested in developing you, they will be putting the playing time into their number one guy.

But what if you’re good enough to be the first choice #10 somewhere else? Wouldn’t it be nice for you to be able to move to another Academy and get a shot at a Homegrown contract? Why should you automatically be blocked from moving just because you live close to your current club?

The Real Issue

Now we get to the part where anyone associated with FC Dallas is going to feel MLS stiffed FCD in their attempt to sign Cappis.

There is a loophole in the Homegrown Territory rule. If a player and his parents all move to the new area, i.e. his entire family, then the Homegrown Territory rule isn’t applied. This loophole obviously exists, in theory, for players whose whole family moves due to non-soccer reasons, new job, new school, etc.

So what does that have to do with Cappis?

Cappis was already 18 when he came to the FC Dallas Academy by himself. An adult.

He could vote and fight in a war but didn’t apparently count as an adult for MLS. As an adult, when he came to the FCD Academy, Cappis was free to sign a pro contract with any club in the World without needing his parents’ permission. Instead, he chose to join the FC Dallas Academy.

So you can see why FC Dallas is a little put out.

The Next Move

As mentioned above, our sources indicate Cappis is signing with Hobro IK in Denmark. He did have a trial, arranged on his own, with Bayern Munich that reportedly went well.

The upside for Dallas, I suppose, is that after Cappis signs a pro deal somewhere else, even if it only lasts a year, he’s then discoverable in MLS terms and FC Dallas could put in a discovery claim to sign him. It won’t be a Homegrown deal, but perhaps Cappis can still join FC Dallas at some point.

The Other FCD Aspect

Blaine Ferri when he was with the US U17s.(US Soccer / US Soccer)

One positive take away, at least I suppose it’s a positive, is that FC Dallas is now solidified as being the only MLS option for Solar SC’s Blaine Ferri. Ferri is a year younger than Cappis and was arguably the best US player at the last FIFA U17 World Cup.

Ferri never played for FC Dallas and doesn’t seem interested in FC Dallas. He’s currently with SpVgg Gruether Furth playing for their U19s where, according to our sources, he will be signing a contract at some point.

Obviously, Ferri isn’t planning on joining FC Dallas. But you better believe that if he somehow pops up trying to sign with another MLS club, FC Dallas will be all over that.

And that will likely remain true of any other Dallas or North Texas player that somehow shows up on MLS radars until the Homegrown Territory rule is repealed.

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