The Sounders’ U-15 and U-17 Academy teams travel to Phoenix, Ariz. on Dec. 5 to compete in the MLS NEXT Fest Showcase.
Comprised of over 300 top youth teams within four different age groups across the United States and Canada, the U-15’s and U-17’s will have the opportunity to compete amongst North America’s best competition in three matches located at the Reach 11 Sports Complex. The showcase also plays a significant role in seeding for Generation adidas Cup.
“It's a pretty involved event,” said Director of Development Wade Webber. “This is sort of the final piece of action for 2023 for the club and so we'll have an opportunity to do a little bit of reflection as a group.”
It’ll be an important six days in terms of players’ future, with plenty of college, national team, and professional scouts and coaches attending the tournament.
Winning each of their three matches would be optimal for the two Sounders’ teams, but participating in the top-tier tournament comes with other expectations for the club that go beyond coming out with positive results.
“I want to see our teams play in a way that reflects well on some of the underlying fundamentals that we expect from our players,” said Webber. “Some examples would be starting games with intensity, and being able to respond to adversity.”
The Academy staff believes the event will be beneficial for the development of players and their long-term goals at the club.
“What we need to be focused on is how we can continue to push the First Team to be even better,” said Webber. “It might seem like we're a long way from the First Team, but things happen so quickly.”
MLS NEXT Fest is also a growth opportunity for coaching staff, beginning with professional development (CPD) sessions on Dec. 3 and 4 hosted by MLS Coaching Education and the U.S. Soccer Federation Coaching Education.
The largest event in the 2023-24 season, MLS NEXT Fest will be a competitive week full of favorable circumstances for all parties involved.
MLS NEXT Fest Schedule
Sounders FC vs Austin FC | 1 p.m. PST, December 7
Sounders FC vs CF Montreal | 2:45 p.m. PST, December 9
Sounders FC vs FC Dallas | 3 p.m. PST, December 10
Sounders FC vs Charlotte FC | 7:15 p.m. PST, December 5
Sounders FC vs D.C. United | 5 p.m. PST, December 6
Sounders FC vs Sporting Kansas City | 1 p.m. PST, December 8
Players to Watch
Bryan Cisneros-Tafolla: Cisneros-Tafolla, who joined Sounders Academy from local youth club Washington Premier FC, is a versatile midfielder with plenty of upside. A standout within the club’s youth system, Cisneros-Tafolla has turned plenty of heads with his impressive performances.
Paolo Hurtado Martinez: Hurtado Martinez is a player who can play “a few different midfield positions, and even central defender,” according to Webber. The son of former Sounders defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Paolo is a main component in controlling the rhythm of the game, has a good sense of how to regain the ball and has the ability to then launch attacks for his team.
Snyder Brunell: Brunell is a midfielder who’s already made a significant impact in Academy and with Tacoma Defiance. He has “about 1000 professional minutes under his belt,” according to Webber and will likely play a major role with Defiance in the upcoming year.
Mohammed Shour: Shour was named MVP of the MLS NEXT All-Star Game back in July after producing a series of stunning saves to lead the West team to victory. He’s also been invited to two U.S. U-16 Youth National Team camps. “He’s got a lot of upside and we think he's got a very bright future,” said Webber.
Etienne Veillard: Veillard regularly plays a more offensive role, but Weber emphasized their willingness to place him at right full-back. “He has a skill set that would translate well to that position, but he does present a good threat going forward,” said Webber. Veillard trains regularly with Defiance and has also trained with the First Team in the past.