The Seattle Sounders youth development system has started paying increasing dividends at the club level in recent years, with several of the club’s up-and-coming young players making waves at the international level as well.
Having players named to rosters on the U.S. Youth National Team circuit serves a dual purpose: Getting those players experience playing with and against other elite players from their age group, while also giving club staff a degree of validation that their methods are getting recognition from the outside.
“I think it’s a testament to the coaches with the Academy on the development side that obviously players are getting recognized within their internal environment, but it’s always nice to see when the players are being noticed externally by national teams, GA Cup Best XIs and getting accolades outside of us,” Vice President of Player Development Henry Brauner told SoundersFC.com. “I’m glad we can contribute to the U.S. National Team, regardless of what level, what age, it shows that, again, external recognition is confirmation that we are happy to get it.”
With that in mind, here’s a brief round-up of prospects from the Sounders Academy who have been in action at the international level so far in 2022.
Stuart Hawkins – Defender
Jayson Castillo – Defender
It’s been a big year for Hawkins, who is considered one of the most talented defensive prospects in the organization. The 17-year-old was named Player of the Tournament for Seattle’s U-17 side that won the 2022 Generation adidas Cup. That came on the heels of his first call-in for the US U-17 January camp, where he was joined by Academy teammate Jayson Castillo.
Hawkins was then called in again for March camp by head Gonzalo Segares ahead of friendlies against Argentina and Uruguay that marked their first international matches of the 2022-23 cycle. The U-20s fell 2-1 in the first of those friendlies with Argentina on March 15, but rebounded to beat Uruguay 2-1 on March 18. On May 22, Hawkins made his professional debut as he started and played 90 minutes for the Tacoma Defiance in a 2-0 win over Colorado Rapids 2.
Hawkins and Castillo are both age-eligible for the 2022-23 U-17 MYNT cycle, which culminates with the 2023 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru.
Reed Baker-Whiting – Midfielder
Another Academy product that has earned a First Team contract, Baker-Whiting was called in for the first U-19 camp since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic as head coach Marko Mitrovic gathered a 33-man roster in Carson, California from April 22 to May 1. All 33 players at the camp were age-eligible for this summer’s 2022 Concacaf U-20 Championship in Honduras, which serves as qualification for the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.
Baker-Whiting was also named U.S. U-19’s for an upcoming camp in Marabella, Spain from May 31 – June 10 where they’ll face England in Norway in a pair of friendlies.
Baker-Whiting has been a regular for MLS NEXT Pro side Tacoma Defiance this season, starting all six of his appearances while getting his first goal and assist as a professional in 402 minutes.
Obed Vargas – Midfielder
Vargas has been one of the biggest stories of the Sounders’ league season, as he’s broken through as a First Team regular at the age of just 16, playing key minutes in both MLS and Concacaf Champions League play.
Amid the breakout showing, Vargas was called in for March camp with the US U-20s ahead of a pair of friendlies in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Vargas scored a goal in a 5-3 victory over Argentine side River Plate on March 29, which followed a 2-2 draw against Argentina’s U-20s on March 26.
The USMNT U-20s kick off group stage play at the 2022 Concacaf U-20 Championship this June, with matchups against Canada, Cuba, and Saint Kitts and Nevis in Group E.
Danny Leyva – Midfielder
Homegrown midfielder Danny Leyva has been a regular on the youth circuit for the US with call-ups at the U-16 and U-17 levels, and the 19-year-old Las Vegas-native was called in again for the U-20 camp in May that ran concurrent to the U-19s camp in Carson.
Slowed by injuries last season, Leyva has re-established himself as a factor for minutes for Seattle’s First Team this year, making three MLS appearances and starting the club’s US Open Cup match against the San Jose Earthquakes on May 11.
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