Seattle Sounders Academy standouts Josh Atencio and Ray Serrano have been called into the latest United States U-17 men’s national team camp by Head Coach John Hackworth. Running from Feb. 24 to March 4, the young Sounders are among 24 of the top young Americans in Chula Vista, Calif., where they’ll play a pair of friendlies against the LA Galaxy U-19s and the Club Tijuana U-18s.
Both players, along with teammate Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, were called into the Nike Friendlies back in December. Serrano, who recently inked his first professional contract with Sounders FC 2, received a call-up to the inaugural USYNT Summit Camp in January. The pair also participated in various phases of the First Team’s preseason, with Serrano turning plenty of heads in flashy second-half cameos against the Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew SC.
“It’s great that we’re having an increasing amount of national team call-ups,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development and Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “We’ve learned that with opportunity comes success.”
While playing for any USYNT is an immense honor, involvement with the U-17s is particularly important, as the young Sounders can build their case for representing the United States at the 2019 U-17 World Cup. It’s the type of unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience that is critical for professional development. In the past, strong showings at the U-17 World Cup have elevated the profiles of top talents such as Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Christian Pulisic and Josh Sargent.
Atencio, 16, has been an international mainstay throughout the past two years, regularly representing the U.S. at the U-15 and U-17 level. Though he missed out on the Summit Camp, it was an important part of the learning process for a talented prospect with professional aspirations.
“Josh has been a consistent member of the pool,” said Nicholls. “Just like any selection process, you have to maintain your form and prove in each match, and with each opportunity, that you can justify selection for the next event.”
For Serrano, 15, the past few months have been a whirlwind of elite developmental experiences. After starring for the Rave Green throughout the past two seasons — he has 22 goals and six assists from just 20 appearances for the Academy this season — the dynamic midfielder was called into the U.S. U-17s for the Nike Friendlies, where he showcased his creativity against some of the best young players in the world. Shortly after the USYNT Summit Camp, the Moses Lake, Wash., native traveled with the First Team to Chula Vista, Calif., and Tucson, Ariz., for MLS preseason.
“Ray has obviously been able to get plenty of different opportunities with the First Team, the national team and the [Sounders Academy] U-17s,” added Nicholls. “And with the S2 season upon us soon, he’ll be able to get even more opportunities.”
The full roster and programming for the camp can be found here.