For third time in less than a month, Seattle Sounders Academy prospects called into U.S. youth national team camps

Sota Kitahara Academy 2018-03-15

For the third time in under a month, several Seattle Sounders Academy prospects have been called-up to a U.S. youth national team. Three standouts from the Sounders U-15 squad — Danny Leyva (CM, pictured below), Sota Kitahara (CM) and Eric Kinzner (CB) — were recently named to the U.S. U-16 roster by Head Coach Shaun Tsakiris for a training camp in Chula Vista, Calif., running from March 10-16. Included in the programming are a pair of friendlies against youth sides for the LA Galaxy and Club Tijuana.

This is Leyva’s third call-up to a USYNT since signing with the club ahead of the 2017-18 USSDA season.

“It’s no surprise to us that the three of these boys have been called up,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development and Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “Both Sota and Danny have spent the vast majority of their time playing and starting [above their age group] with the [Sounders] U-17s.

“Eric is a player that has shown some consistency of late,” Nicholls continued. “He had a very good Generation adidas Cup and got this call-up based purely on merit and improvement.”

In recent months, Sounders Academy players have received a slew of USYNT call-ups, spanning several age groups, which indicates the plethora of elite talent currently in the pipeline. But more importantly, the players called in represent numerous positions, a trend that symbolizes the club’s ability to identify players with certain qualities and subsequently groom them into professional prospects.

For third time in less than a month, Seattle Sounders Academy prospects called into U.S. youth national team camps  -

“We’ve done an awful lot of work in defining player profiles for each position and each one fits into the way that we want to play,” said Nicholls. “It’s something we’ve been hard at work for three or four years now, so the USYNT call-ups are a sign of the progress that we’ve made.”

A large portion of the Sounders’ success in developing top talents for both club and country can be attributed to their extensive work in implementing expansive youth programming throughout the community. Whether it’s setting up scouting networks, working with partner clubs or bringing players into the Sounders Discovery Program, the Academy now has the infrastructure to identify prospects who, in all likelihood, would have fallen through the cracks just a couple of years ago.

“What’s really good about our current scouting network is that we’ve identified players from very different backgrounds, very different areas of the youth soccer setup,” said Nicholls. “Eric came from a small club in Federal Way, so perhaps he wouldn’t have been identified in the past, while Sota is a Seattle United boy who came through the Sounders Discovery Program. And then Danny is the result of our national scouting, but part of that came from our relationship with that club after we signed Azriel Gonzalez.”

With several distinct pathways into the Academy, and subsequently up to S2 and the First Team, the club is beginning to reap the benefits of its initiatives aimed at improving the quality of player development in the region. And as more players get called up to national teams, the future of the club looks brighter every day.

The full roster for the camp can be found here.

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