- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2017

BEIJING (AP) - The Chinese soccer association is requiring domestic clubs to allocate at least 15 percent of yearly spending toward youth training in a bid to keep national development on track amid an influx of pricy foreign talent.

The association suggested in a statement Thursday that there would also be a new salary cap and financial audits of clubs, but did not give details.

The CFA has been tweaking its rules after clubs splashed hundreds of millions of dollars over the past year on stars including Carlos Tevez, an Argentine who will reportedly become the world’s highest-paid player at Shanghai Shenhua.

The announcement on youth training issued late Thursday came days after the CFA lashed out at “irrational” spending on foreign player purchases and wages, and limited the number of foreign players on match-day rosters to three to allow young Chinese players more playing opportunities. Teams must also field at least two Chinese players under 23, one of whom has to be in the starting lineup.

The dramatic spending splurge by Chinese clubs, which are usually owned by large Chinese conglomerates, took off a year ago amid a government push to expand China’s soccer infrastructure and improve its perennially underperforming national team. The plan envisions 50 million players joining in the game by the end of the decade and the transformation of the country into a “first-rate major footballing power” by 2050.

However, commentators and authorities, including the government’s top economic planner, say the exorbitant player transactions stray from the spirit of the soccer reform directive and may even be used to mask questionable financial dealings.

The CFA said Thursday that teams must now provide financial details about their operations, including their revenue sources and also submit to a third-party audit. It encouraged clubs to “diversify” their ownership, form separate squads for under-17 and under-19 players, and meet national standards for training facilities.

The General Administration of Sport, the Chinese government’s oversight body, warned this month that it would step in to cool down the market after Shanghai SIPG paid Chelsea 60 million euros ($63 million) to acquire Brazilian midfielder Oscar.

Chinese clubs, which broke the Asian transfer record several times in a row in 2016, have been busy reinforcing their rosters ahead of 2017 season starting in March.

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