VANCOUVER - Texas teen sensation Omar Salgado may not make his Major League Soccer debut until he turns 18-years-old on Sept. 10.
The Vancouver Whitecaps claimed the 17-year-old El Paso, Texas native first overall in Thursday’s SuperDraft in Baltimore.
FIFA prohibits under-18 players from transferring to another country unless "the player’s parents move to the country in which the new club is located for reasons not linked to football".
The same rule barred the Whitecaps from signing Salgado last summer during a brief tryout in Vancouver.
“We know what the worst case scenario is and if we can do anything other than that it's a huge bonus for us,” said Whitecaps’ president Bob Lenarduzzi on a media conference call.
Salgado, whose mother is American and father Mexican, said his family will visit him in Vancouver, but is not planning to relocate.
“I knew Vancouver had interest in me,” said the six-foot-four, 170-pound forward. “I never thought they'd take me first pick.”
Salgado is a veteran of Mexico’s under-17 and under-20 teams and played three years with Guadalajara’s youth side.
He played nine games in 2010 for the U.S. under-20 team, which is aiming to qualify for this summer’s under-20 World Cup.
“I've always been a big believer that if you're good enough, you're old enough,” said Lenarduzzi, who debuted as 15-year-old with Reading in England. “We want to make sure when Omar plays in our starting eleven that we're not doing it out of desperation but we're doing it on the basis of good timing.”
The Portland Timbers took 20-year-old University of Akron forward Darlington Nagbe second overall. Lenarduzzi said rumours that Nagbe, the NCAA player of the year, was reluctant to play in Canada were false. Vancouver’s choice of Salgado was based on skill.
“Nagbe is more of a withdrawn striker, Omar is more of an out and out striker,” Lenarduzzi said. “What we saw in Omar was an upside that I don’t think we’ve seen anything yet as to what his potential is.”
Vancouver picked Nagbe’s Akron teammate Michael Nanchoff, a 22-year-old midfielder, eighth overall. The Whitecaps claimed Notre Dame University midfielder Jeb Brovsky, 22, and defender Bilal Duckett, 22, to begin the second and third rounds, respectively.
Meanwhile, Lenarduzzi downplayed reports that Derby County captain Robbie Savage is destined for Vancouver.
He said Derby County and Whitecaps’ co-owner Jeff Mallett and Whitecaps’ chief executive Paul Barber met with the flamboyant 36-year-old Welsh midfielder this week.
“Robbie Savage is a player amongst a number of players that we're talking to,” Lenarduzzi said.