50th Anniversary

Five decades of Sounders alumni growing youth soccer in Seattle

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When the Seattle Sounders first launched in 1974, the team entered the North American Soccer League with two key objectives.

The first was relatively straightforward – to win trophies.

The second, however, was no simple feat and would take decades of work. As stewards of soccer in Seattle, the players and staff felt obligated to grow the game throughout the region.

“When we started, the game wasn't that big of a deal, so guys like Dave Gillett (‘74-‘80), Adrian Webster (‘74-‘79), and Tommy Jenkins (‘76-‘79), went into the schools and really, really worked the community hard to make it what it is now,” said former defender Jimmy McAlister (‘76-‘79), who is the Director of Soccer at Seattle United.

Whether it be developing future professional and collegiate players, or simply the next generation of local soccer fans, Sounders alumni have utilized their experiences with the organization to give back to the Seattle community.

“A lot of people helped me in my career,” said former defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (‘09 -’13), who is an assistant coach with Midlakes United and spent several years with Crossfire Premier. “That's why I want to introduce all the help that I received to help other people.”

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Throughout the last five decades, Sounders players have been adamant on expanding the sport in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

“For us to be able to go out and have an impact on the kids and actually show them how they're supposed to [play] and to see the look on their face when it clicks in and they do get it, is really enjoyable,” said Peter Hattrup (‘94, ‘95, ‘97-‘99, ‘01), who currently coaches at Valor Soccer Club.

50 years on from the club’s inaugural season, former Sounders are still playing an active role in cultivating the next generation of soccer players and fans.

Former players like James Riley (‘09-‘11), Marcus Hannehmann (‘94-‘96, ‘12-‘14), Viet Nguyen (‘99-’04), Sanna Nyassi (‘08-’10), Brad Evans (’09-‘17), Craig Tomlinson (’00-’08), Ben Dragavon (’06-’08) and many others are currently coaching youth soccer throughout Seattle. Additionally, Chance Fry (‘83, ‘94-‘97), Bernie James (’77-’80) and Jimmy McAlister are directors at Eastside FC, Crossfire Premier and Seattle United, respectively.

At the macro level, former Sounder and club legend Roger Levesque has been growing the game as the President of Washington Youth Soccer since 2022.

“I'm really enjoying what I'm doing and being able to influence the game off the field and grow the sport at the youth level,” said Fry. "I think it's all a groundswell going upwards. I think it's just a really important thing to not only create players, but to create fans that will support the Sounders for decades to come."

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Several high-ranking members of the Sounders organization spent years working in the youth game. Head Coach Brian Schmetzer was a coaching director at Emerald City FC during the Sounders’ USL era, while Director of Goalkeeping Tom Dutra and Director of Development Wade Webber spent years coaching at Washington Premier FC.

On the current First Team roster, the likes of Jordan Morris, Jackson Ragen, Josh Atencio and Paul Rothrock were all coached by former Sounders prior to joining the club at the youth level.

“We've created a pathway where really none used to exist until the Sounders Academy started in 2010,” said Webber (‘94-‘96). “The role the Sounders have played in the youth game is to give a very, very clear way for a kid to go from an area youth club to a Major League Soccer contract.”

The alumni’s collaboration within the Seattle soccer space is a way for them to share their knowledge of the game and help youth attain their dreams.

Their contributions to the youth game are a reflection of their journey in the sport, but it is also a reflection of the Sounders organization’s deep local ties and the imprint that it has left on people to continue impacting the game for others.

“I think most of the guys that got to play here are giving…They want to give more than just play the game and go home,” said Gillett. “They want to help build it in the community.”

The Sounders return to action on Sunday as they host the LA Galaxy (3:45 p.m. PT; Watch FREE on Apple TV, 93.3 KJR FM, El Rey 1360AM | TICKETS) for the club's annual Youth Day match on the Emerald Queen Casino Pitch at Lumen Field.

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