The future is bright for the Seattle Sounders.
Major League Soccer on Wednesday revealed the roster for the 2022 MLS NEXT All-Star Game in Minnesota, with Tacoma Defiance center back Stu Hawkins (2005) and Sounders Academy attacker Chris Aquino (2006) making the team.
Set to take place during MLS All Star Week in the Twin Cities on August 10, the inaugural MLS NEXT All-Star Game features the top 45 young players in North America to compete in an East vs. West format.
“It’s recognition for the players’ hard work,” said Sounders FC Vice President of Player Development Henry Brauner. “When a young player has recognition, everybody behind the scenes – the coaches, administrators, operations staff, high-performance coaches, sports scientists, trainers and equipment people – has a sense of pride.”
Inclusion in the first-ever MLS NEXT All-Star Game is a fitting reward for Hawkins and Aquino, both of whom enjoyed breakout campaigns with the Sounders this year.
Hawkins was named tournament MVP when the U-17’s won the prestigious Generation adidas Cup, beating top MLS and Liga MX teams like Inter Miami, the Philadelphia Union, Santos Laguna, Monterrey and Tigres UANL. Aquino was also instrumental the team’s success at GA Cup, scoring the game-winning goals in the semifinal and final.
“They were fantastic at GA Cup and collectively they helped the team achieve what it achieved,” said Brauner. “But they also had tremendous individual performances. These are things that help us project players’ talents.”
While this inclusion in the MLS NEXT All-Star Game is driven by their success at the youth level, the current trajectory of Hawkins and Aquino has been fueled, in part, by their integration into the professional ranks at the club.
“Them getting to this stage is because they did have First Team sessions,” added Brauner. “They were ingrained in the Tacoma Defiance.”
Hawkins, 16, is a tall, ball-playing center back who has been a regular fixture with the United States U-17 Men’s National Team. Hailing from Fox Island, Hawkins has traversed the club’s player development pathway from the Sounders Discovery Program through to the Academy and now with the Defiance in MLS NEXT Pro.
Aquino, 16, joined the club from Three Rivers SC in Pasco, Wash. At the SDP level as well. A highly-technical, creative attacking player, Aquino has progressed along the pathway and earned training stings with the First Team and Defiance.
“Chris Aquino is from Central Washington,” noted Brauner. “So it’s really cool that he gets to represent that part of the state [on the national stage].”
You can find more information on the event HERE.
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