City have firmed up their links with the American overseas soccer academy RIASA – and hope to reap the rewards for free.

The club have close connections with the Leeds-based scheme through director of operations David Baldwin and former winger Mark Ellis.

Nahki Wells is the most successful graduate of the system after Baldwin persuaded City to give him a trial.

Now the door is open for more to follow the striker to Valley Parade after the club formalised their agreement, meaning they will get first refusal on the best players.

After the short-lived Montegnee experiment and the scaling down of this season’s development model, the club believe they have struck the right balance.

Baldwin said: “This is like a hybrid version of the original Belgian project we looked at in 2007 (with Montegnee) and the development squad. It’s combining the benefits of both together.

“We’ve got a worldwide net for international students who want to be footballers which is self-contained. It costs the club no money because they are coming over on an education programme and a number of them have dual-nationalities.

“They are also training full time with a network of coaches well known to the club such as Mark and John Hendrie.”

With RIASA based full-time at Leeds Met University, City will be able to bring in local trialists to train and work with them.

“Because they have a full infrastructure of facilities, it gives the club the opportunity to integrate players into that if we want to look at them,” said Baldwin.

“We’ve already set up a couple of games where a mix of the Bradford City first and youth teams have played against RIASA. In addition, one or two of the students have trained with the club.

“These boys are being developed with no cost at all to the club. Equally, you won’t have to pay anything signing a player because they are free agents. From the club’s perspective, there is everything to gain and nothing to lose.”

Ellis, who was instrumental in getting Wells his pro ticket after he left Bermuda, has been head coach of the university programme since it began two years ago. He will combine that role with a new post at City next season to work with the 18-21 age group.

Ellis said: “We’ve got 25 lads over here of all different levels. Some are low down but we’re just looking for those one or two special players.

“You’ve got the opportunity for them to go into a professional club at Bradford and play against the likes of Middlesbrough. No other club would give me that.

“You’ve seen how well Nahki has done. He’s gone from strength to strength and I’m really pleased he’s done it for my home-town club.”

Wells believes he will be the first of many to emerge from the scheme, which is connected to the American-run Richmond University in London.

“Hopefully I will give others the motivation to know that the opportunities are there if you earn them,” he said.

“There’s a lot of American and Caribbean talent out there ready and willing to break through.

“I never had any doubt I couldn’t make it but RIASA helped me to really understand the (English) game and get used to it.

“Nowadays people come in from other countries on a two-week trial and that’s not enough time to adapt, even if you have the talent.

“RIASA gives you that time and, with the ex-professionals running it, you have the right people looking at you.”