The 2023/2024 MLS NEXT season is on the horizon as the Seattle Sounders’ U-17 and U-15 Academy teams look to have another flourishing year against top clubs in the U.S. and Canada.
The two teams will have the opportunity to showcase their talents in several matches over the course of the season with the combination of league play and four major tournaments/events on the schedule for the upcoming year.
The four events include MLS NEXT Fest, Generation adidas Cup, MLS NEXT Flex, and the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs.
While Sounders Academy teams have a vast history of success in the playoffs and competitions like GA Cup, the main objective remains the same every year for the coaching staff: to produce players into the pro pathway.
“Whether they go with Tacoma Defiance first, or have an opportunity with the First Team, the idea is to help them to become better, develop them within the group, within the team philosophy, play the style that we want at the Seattle Sounders, and prepare them for the next step,” said U-17 Head Coach Xavi Bravo.
Development ultimately comes from the hard work that is displayed on the pitch. Competing and striving to be the best in these upcoming matches and training sessions is essential for these players to continue growing in the sport.
For the U-15 squad, the first step is getting acclimated to the higher level of play that comes with competing in MLS NEXT.
“We want the U-15’s to — as quickly as possible — try to establish the norms of what it is to train in a professional environment, to embrace what it means to be a Sounders player, to work hard, and to always fight to continue to improve,” said U-15 Head Coach Brayton Knapp.
The U-17’s hope to carry over those principles into their game as well.
“I think we have a talented group,” said Bravo. “The majority of players are coming from the U-15’s and we have some players coming into their second year with the 17’s. So, we need to make the proper combination on how these players can fit together and play together.”
The two team’s kick off the season this weekend as they both travel to British Columbia to face the Vancouver Whitecaps on September 16.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Snyder Brunell: Brunell is a midfielder who’s already made a significant impact in Academy and with Tacoma Defiance. He’s already made a few starts with Defiance this season, scoring his first professional goal against North Texas SC on August 19.
Etienne Veillard: Veillard is a forward who is considered a “proper prospect,” according to Bravo. He trains regularly with Defiance and has also trained with the First Team in the past.
Mohammed Shour: Shour was named MVP of the MLS NEXT All-Star Game after producing a series of stunning saves to lead the West team to victory on July 19. He’s also been invited to two U.S. U-16 Youth National Team camps.
Omar Hassan: Hassan is a versatile player who can play on the wing or up front. He has the ability to take on players 1-v-1 and according to Knapp, is expected to contribute a lot this season.
Paulo Hurtado: Hurtado is a midfielder who is a main component in controlling the rhythm of the game. He has a good sense of how to regain the ball and has the ability to then launch attacks for his team.
Duncan Green: Green is a center back with a big physical presence. He has a good understanding of how to cover players and an ability, according to Knapp, that could “take him to an elite level if he’s committed to himself.”