Ryo Fujii leaves UC Santa Barbara but not college to sign with LA Galaxy II

Homegrowns

UC Santa Barbara freshman midfielder Ryo Fujii is leaving the Gauchos to join the professional ranks with LA Galaxy’s USL team, but he’s not leaving college behind.

Los Dos announced the signing of Fujii earlier this week to a contract that includes “financial resources to enroll at Cal State Dominguez Hills.”

Fujii played for the Galaxy’s U-18 team during the 2013-14 season before joining Tim Vom Steeg’s Gauchos for the fall 2014 season.

He played in 19 games his freshman year, starting 16 times and delivered a pair of assists for a team that went 10-7-3 while leading the nation in attendance (the 14,345 for the Cal Poly game put them over the top, but they drew 4,000 plus in games against UCLA, San Diego State and Cal State Northridge).

Fujii’s deal could mark the start of a new trend in MLS, especially for the 7 teams currently fielding USL sides. The promise of playing time at the USL level while still taking college courses at a nearby school (Cal State Dominguez Hills is on the same block as the StubHub Center) could be a more enticing carrot for college players than leaving college early to ride the bench.

Fujii isn’t the only player leaving college early for USL this season. Maryland junior defender Mikey Ambrose, who spent time with FC Dallas Academy before going to College Park for three seasons, signed with new USL side Austin Aztex.

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