Sounders Academy graduate Okoli looking to rise through the USMNT ranks after U21 call

Sean Okoli has his focus set on Brazil, but it isn’t the 2014 FIFA World Cup that the Sounders FC rookie is thinking about. Rio De Janeiro is also the host city for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games and with a call in to U.S. U-21 training camp this week in Carson, Calif., Okoli is on track to make a run at wearing the U.S. National Team jersey.

A 21-year-old forward/midfielder from Federal Way, Okoli has been active with the U.S. Youth National Teams since his days with the U.S. U-18 squad while playing with the Sounders FC Academy and at nearby Todd Beamer High School. Now with the call from Tab Ramos to play for the U-21s, he is back in the fold and looking to make an impact in the Stars and Stripes.

“It’s something I’m thinking about. It’s my age group that goes and I really want to be a part of that group. But it’s two years away. I have to take it a lot slower than that,” Okoli said. “I’ll just make sure I’m ready, hopefully I keep getting called into these camps and we’ll go from there.”

The U.S. U-21 camp started on Sunday and will conclude on Wednesday with a friendly against Club Tijuana. Okoli is joined in camp by Sounders FC Academy product and current Stanford University forward Jordan Morris, a Mercer Island native. Of the 21 players initially called in by Ramos, 13 of them are current MLS players, although Luis Gil and Wil Trapp were both ruled out Monday due to minor injuries.

That experience with some of the other top players in his age group is a great opportunity for Okoli.

“I know it will help me individually. I’m excited to get in, get some work in and then take it from there,” Okoli said.

After netting 24 goals and nine assists in three seasons at Wake Forest University, Okoli has a good scoring track record. However, with a deep core of forwards that includes Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Kenny Cooper, Lamar Neagle, Chad Barrett and Cam Weaver, minutes with the first team have been hard to come by. Even still, Okoli has 18 minutes in two appearances with Sounders FC just seven matches into his first professional season. He has been inactive just twice in those seven matches, earning a spot on the bench in the other five for Seattle while also playing an active role in Seattle’s five reserve matches thus far.

“I’m in and out right now, but I feel like I’ve been training well,” Okoli said. “I’m just waiting for my next opportunity whenever it comes.”

After the match on Wednesday, Okoli will return to Seattle in advance of Saturday’s match against the Colorado Rapids, who have three players in the camp.

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