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Obstacle removed: Salgado cleared to play for Whitecaps

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Omar Salgado
Omar Salgado won’t have to wait until his 18th birthday to play in his first MLS game.

The Vancouver Whitecaps have been successful in their efforts to get the No. 1 pick in the 2011 Superdraft cleared to play. Salgado is currently with the U.S. U-20 team as it prepares for the CONCACAF qualifiers in Guatemala, so he won’t be able to help the Whitecaps this Saturday in Philadelphia, where the club has a bit of a roster crisis because of international call-ups.

Under a FIFA ruling, Salgado had been ruled ineligible to play for a Canadian club until he reached his 18th birthday, which comes in September. On Friday, the Whitecaps announced that the obstacle has been cleared.

“Omar is a great talent and will be an important player to the club,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Teitur Thordarson in a release. “To have the news that he will be able to play from this point on is great for us, as Omar has already showed us that he can play on this level. I’m delighted for him and the club.”

Salgado enjoyed an impressive training camp — and looked to be the best of the strikers in the training matches. While Designated Player Eric Hassli was impressive in his MLS debut, scoring twice, the Whitecaps need to add talent up front.

Salgado was projected to be the No. 1 pick as early as last year – and was given a Generation Adidas deal. The Whitecaps were allowed to pick up Salgado to play with them in Division 2, as a way to test the player they would likely be selecting in 2011.

But the league and Whitecaps later discovered they would be breaking FIFA regulations. Salgado was under 18, and he and his family had moved from the U.S. to Mexico. Salgada had played for Chivas Guadalajara’s youth wing. Moving to a third country — Canada — to play soccer before reaching the age of majority wasn’t allowed.

The Whitecaps had promised to politely petition FIFA to relax the rules, as Salgado would be playing in a league where 16 of the 18 teams are U.S. based.

Because of the ban, the Whitecaps decision to stick with Salgado as the No. 1 pick looked like a real gamble. But, with his preseason form — where he looked years beyond his age —and the relaxation of the rule, Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi and his staff have played the poker game, and come up with the winning hand.

“We had seen enough in that spell in Vancouver,” said Lenarduzzi on draft day. “We had him pegged as our number-one pick…. In spite of that (the FIFA rule), we still were convinced that Omar would be our number-one pick.”

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