The Future: Facing Liga MX giants at GA Cup prepares Academy U-17's for Sounders First Team

GA Cup sider 2 cover Herrera

One of the unique aspects of the Generation adidas Cup is that it pits MLS-affiliated youth programs against international competition, giving them a chance to play against elite talent from clubs hailing all over the world.

The Sounders Academy U-17's got the full taste of that at this year’s GA Cup in Frisco, Texas, which ended with the group successfully defending their 2019 title (following two years of cancellations), winning the championship match with a convincing 2-0 result over Liga MX powerhouse Tigres UANL.

That was the third Liga MX foe they vanquished on their road to the title, with 2-0 victory over Santos Laguna in the group stage and a penalty-kick triumph over Monterrey in the quarterfinals.

“We get to benchmark against our international competitors like Tigres, that's a team [the Seattle Sounders] played in a Leagues Cup quarterfinal,” said Sounders VP of Player Development Henry Brauner. “For us it’s a good benchmark because that’s their future that’s on the field. And when we’re playing against a team like that, they’re also playing against our future.

“So, we tell the kids, these are good moments because there’s going to be 3-4 players that you play against tonight that you’re going to have to then play against [in the future],” he continued. “Maybe at a youth national team event if they represent Mexico. And you’re going to have to play against that same player maybe in the reserve team game for an inter-league match, and you might even have to play against that same guy in a Champions League game when they’re playing for Tigres’ first team and you’re hopefully playing for Sounders First Team.”

The international exposure adds a layer of preparation as it pertains to the type of competition these players will have to face should they break through to the First Team level.

Seattle’s First Team is currently in the midst of an historic run to the Concacaf Champions League Final, where they’ll face Liga MX side Pumas UNAM after having topped another Mexican side, Club León, in the CCL Quarterfinals.

When the moment comes where an Academy player is tasked with playing at that level, having already faced opponents at the youth level that might well be future First Team opponents should pay dividends, according to Brauner.

“Credit to our First Team and the club in MLS, we’re producing a team now that’s competing with what the elites of the continent,” he said. “It’s exciting to see it from our youngest guys, the older guys coming through, we’re obviously always cheering for our guys when they have to do it against Pumas coming up.”

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Overall, Brauner said competing against and beating some of the world’s most highly-touted Academies instills belief in Seattle’s players that they are on that level.

While that was aptly demonstrated with the previous generation’s first title, winning a second straight only serves to reinforce the notion.

“It helps them,” said Brauner. “It builds their confidence. It shows they can compete with the world’s elite. So, it’s a good, it’s a wonderful moment.”



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