Five Home Grown players to watch in 2011

As the league's academy initiative blossoms, who will break out?

The Home Grown rule continues to shape and change the landscape of MLS, and with another new season comes a chance for these signings to make an impact on the league.

Real Salt Lake’s signing of Donny Toia on Monday raised the number of Home Grown players in MLS to 31. Several of those are a long way off from making an impact at the highest level in American soccer, while others like Andy Najar have already shown tremendous ability on a consistent basis.

With the new season around the corner, there are plenty of young understudies who will be fighting for playing time and battling to stand out when the season begins.

Here are five Home Grown signings looking to contribute this year:

F Juan Agudelo, New York Red Bulls

There’s a lot of buzz and hype surrounding New York’s 18-year-old forward, thanks to two performances with the US national team in a pair of friendlies. However, there’s reason to temper those expectations because he’s yet to really make any noise in MLS.

Last yea he made two starts in the MLS Cup Playoffs, but before that he had all of two appearances and 14 minutes of action under his belt. Injury problems might hamper him as he looks to crack the starting lineup and truly breakout this year. If healthy, he'll partner Thierry Henry up front and will have every chance to flourish this year.

GK Bill Hamid, D.C. United

It’s been an interesting offseason for Hamid, who underwent shoulder surgery and came back into camp in great shape. Amid a massive changeover at DC, Hamid will hope to contend for the starting spot after sporadically playing last year. When in net last year, he showed glimpses of what he can do as he boasts an impressive combination of size, reflexes and athleticism.

The timetable for his recovery limited his training, and while it looks as though he’ll be cleared this week, it could be a couple of weeks before he can truly fight for the No. 1 jersey.

F Tristan Bowen, Chivas USA

Though the Los Angeles product actually came through the LA Galaxy Academy and initially signed for Chivas USA’s rivals, an offseason move has opened the door for Bowen to shine. He’ll be a candidate to start from the opening game for Chivas, and with Justin Braun working his way back from an injury, Bowen will want to seize this opportunity to truly show that he is truly capable.

A quick forward with a knack for finishing, Bowen should flourish in his new digs as he showed last year for the Galaxy when Edson Buddle left for World Cup duties.

MF Francisco Navas Cobo, Houston Dynamo

Playing time in the Houston midfield is not going to be easy for Navas Cobo, a 19-year-old American who has only played one game for the first team. In a substitute appearance in the Walt Disney Pro Soccer Classic, he buried a cracking finish against FC Dallas.

F Ruben Luna, FC Dallas (pictured above)

FC Dallas currently top MLS with six Home Grown signings. And while three or four of them might be able to sneak some minutes this year, one of the strongest candidates to put together a solid campaign is Luna, a 19-year-old forward from Mexico. His six goals in preseason give him a chance at seeing some playing time when the season begins against Chicago on Saturday.

<p><a href="http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/mls-matchday-2011-app-ipad-released-iphone-app-updated"><img src="http://www.mlssoccer.com/sites/default/files/ipad-banner.jpg" alt="" width="620" height="100" /></a></p>