Wayne Rooney, Xherdan Shaqiri, Shkodran Mustafi, Ivan Rakitic, Danny Blind, Ross Barkley, Tom Davies, Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum -- these are just some of the notable players developed by clubs that Sounders Academy defeated this week en route to repeating as Youdan Trophy champions.
Taking place in Sheffield, England, the Sounders Academy U-14s (2002) faced off against the best in the world at the Youdan Trophy, a youth tournament known as a showcase for the ‘stars of the future’. Placed in a difficult group alongside Sparta Rotterdam (Netherlands), Queens Park Rangers (England), Celtic FC (Scotland) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (England), Seattle faced a stern test in advancing to the knockout rounds. The young Sounders, however, were up for the challenge, winning all four group-stage matches by scoring 15 goals and conceding just twice.
In a repeat of last summer’s title game, the Rave Green took on perennial Swiss powerhouse FC Basel in the semifinal.
Striker Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, a starter for the United States U-15 National Team, opened the scoring in the 15th-minute after a spectacular passing sequence from Danny Robles, the reigning tournament MVP, and Ray Serrano, who recently earned his first USYNT call-up, put the young No. 9 through on goal. Basel pulled one back shortly after the start of the second period, making for a tense affair. Determined to return to the championship match, Serrano provided a moment of magic with eight minutes remaining to seal the victory, striking a volley into the ground that bounced and looped over the Swiss goalkeeper.
Filled with belief that they could repeat as champions, the young Sounders took the match to Premier League side Everton FC from the opening whistle in the title game. They entered the break with a 1-0 advantage after attacking midfielder Ethan Dobbelaere opened the scoring midway through the first half.
Seattle carved out a few clear-cut opportunities to win the match outright in regular time only to be denied by the post on several occasions. Taking advantage of the Sounders profligacy in front of goal, Everton pulled level off a well-worked cross from the left side with just six-minutes remaining in the match. After the two periods of extra time ended scoreless, the title match went into penalties.
In the PK shootout, goalkeeper Jake Stone provided the heroics for the Sounders, saving Everton’s second and fourth spot-kick attempts. With the Youdan Trophy on the line, Ocampo-Chavez scored the decisive penalty, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way with a confident finish.
In addition to winning the title, Ocampo-Chavez was awarded the Golden Boot for most goals scored in the tournament with eight.
Earlier in the day, the Sounders Discovery Program U-12 (2004) squad won its third-place match with a 2-1 win over Japanese club Kawasaki Frontale. Striker Oscar Rincon, who was awarded Player of the Tournament for the U-14 division, handed the young Sounders a lead with a powerful header off a corner kick. Kawasaki Frontale found the equalizer in the second half, but Seattle United striker Reed Baker-Whiting sealed the victory with a ridiculous free-kick goal in second-half stoppage time.
The SDP squad barely missed out on a shot at winning the title after losing to the eventual champions, Sunderland AFC, on penalties in the semifinal. However, the tournament should be considered a resounding success for the young Sounders, having collected marquee wins over Manchester United (5-0) and Crystal Palace (2-0). With five players playing up from 2005 age group and a roster boasting 12 players from local youth-affiliate clubs, the third place finish is also emblematic of the growing influence of the club's extensive youth programming.