The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of once-in-a-lifetime experiences for Seattle Sounders FC 2 midfielder Ray Serrano.
Shortly after leading the Sounders Academy U-17s to the Premier Division title at Generation adidas Cup, which was the best finish at the event in club history, Serrano made his full professional debut with S2. At just 15 years old, he started and played 63 minutes against Real Monarchs SLC in front of 2,090 fans at Cheney Stadium on Wednesday.
The young Sounder was recently named to the 24-man roster by Head Coach John Hackworth for the U.S. U-17 national team’s upcoming international tournament in Benicassim, Spain, running from April 16-21. The young Yanks will take on India on April 16 and 19, and will face Norway on April 17 and 21.
“It’s another opportunity for Ray to get international experience in a different place with a new team,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development and Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “It’s his first trip away with the U.S. U-17s, and we hope that he can become a mainstay with that group and experience many more, with the longer-term goal of making a U-17 World Cup squad.”
An extremely talented player who flew under the USSF’s radar for years, Serrano’s latest call-up seems to indicate he’s close to cementing his place with the U.S. U-17s. After receiving his first-ever call-up back in November for the Nike Friendlies, during which he dazzled with his creativity on the ball and fearlessness in the final third, the dynamic attacker has been involved in every subsequent camp with Hackworth’s squad.
Given that the U.S. U-17s are at the start of a new World Cup cycle, meaning this squad will build to the 2019 U-17 World Cup in Peru, the upcoming trip presents an opportunity for Serrano to make his case for a starting role for the Stars and Stripes going forward.
“We tell the boys that it’s very important for them to make an impression, and not go into any camp with the attitude that they’re just glad to be there,” said Nicholls. “They’re there for a reason and the objective is to stay there, so all credit to Ray for achieving that so far with the U.S. U-17s.”
International experience is a key component for Sounders Academy in developing elite prospects. Consistently facing off against the best young players in the world at the international level provides a level of competition and exposure that can accelerate development. Inclusion on the U-17 and U-20 national teams, in particular, are viewed as massive opportunities because the two-year cycles culminate in youth World Cups.
Serrano’s rapid ascent for both club and country leaves him in an optimal situation to capitalize on these rare opportunities. The full roster for the U.S. U-17s can be found here.