Three players from Sounders Academy – Homegrowns Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez and Danny Leyva, as well as U-19 standout Ethan Dobbelaere – have been called up to the United States U-17 Men’s National Team for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil later this month.
“It’s not a huge surprise,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development and Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “In this U-17 cycle, we’ve had seven of our guys with the national team at some point. We all know the World Cup is the best of the best, so we’re all really excited about that.”
In recent seasons, the Sounders have prioritized integrating top youth talents into the club’s professional setup. Despite their young ages, the trio have already combined for over 2,600 pro minutes with the Tacoma Defiance and Sounders FC First Team.
Facing off against the best young players in the world, the young Sounders’ significant experience playing against grown men in the USL Championship and in MLS has the young Sounders prepared for the World Cup.
“We feel like we’ve been able to give them a platform for this event,” said Nicholls. “Obviously, Alfonso and Danny have played with the First Team and done really well. Ethan in his Defiance has experiences has looked more than comfortable. He’s played well and scored.”
Recently named to the USL 20 Under 20, Ocampo-Chavez has been in fantastic form of late, bagging six goals and two assists in just over 1,100 minutes with the Defiance. A quick, intelligent striker with elite finishing ability, his versatility up top and on the wing should lead to plenty of playing time in Brazil.
“Alfonso is a scorer,” U.S. U-17 Head Coach Raphael Wicky said in a conference call with reporters. “He knows where the goal is. He knows the runs he has to do… I want him in the box. He has to be in the box because he is one of those guys who always smells where the ball falls down.”
Leyva, meanwhile, has consistently demonstrated a soccer IQ and composure against established professionals that belies his young age. In fact, he missed the last two U.S. U-17 events because his services were required with the Sounders First Team.
“It was a great season for Danny, having so many minutes in MLS,” added Wicky. “I was really happy for him and for his development… He’s a very important player. He was a very important player in CONCACAF [qualifying] and will be one at the World Cup.”
Long believed to be an elite prospect within the Academy, Dobbelaere has burst onto the scene in recent months. The Seattle United alum was first identified by Wicky at the Generation Adidas Cup, where he showcased his creativity against elite international sides like River Plate and C.F. Valencia. At the Four Nation’s tournament, the local kid came off the bench and assisted the game-winning goal against Mexico.
More recently, Dobbelaere has been earning minutes with the Defiance, where he scored his first professional goal in a 5-1 drubbing of San Antonio FC.
“He’s new, but in the two times he was with us, he showed me that I can trust him,” noted Wicky. “Every time he had minutes, he created something, so I’m excited for him as well.”
You can find more information on the roster and the U.S. U-17’s schedule for the World Cup here.