In November of this past year, the Sounders unveiled Seattle United as their first official youth club partner. In an effort to expand their ever-growing influence on player development in the state, the Sounders joined up with the biggest youth soccer organization in western Washington. While both Seattle United and the Rave Green will benefit from this new relationship, the real winners of this partnership are local youth soccer players.
The Sounders will now have greater access and opportunities to scout the 2,000 players currently developing in the Seattle United system. By expanding their youth development infrastructure, they can ensure that every exceptional local player is afforded an opportunity to showcase their ability and potentially join the Sounders FC Academy.
Conversely, Seattle United will continue to experience holistic growth and improvement as a result of this landmark deal. SU players will be afforded the opportunity to train with Academy coaches, scouts and technical staff. Not only will local players have a chance to demonstrate their passion and skill, but it will also expose them to the methods and philosophy of the Sounders FC Academy. Furthermore, the Sounders staff will help with coaching clinics and programs for Seattle United coaches, helping to increase the soccer education and quality of coaching in western Washington. This way, even the players who are not brought into the Academy system will benefit from these new development initiatives.
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So, while the advantages of this partnership for Seattle United and the Sounders are readily apparent, every soccer player in the city will truly reap the rewards. This two-way, hyper-fluid relationship will increase the quality of training and coaching for both organizations. Additionally, with so many former SU players currently in the Academy, every young soccer player in the area now has more tangible, concrete goals for their own personal development. Since the purpose of the Academy system is ultimately to help develop well-rounded and intelligent soccer players for the first team, local kids who love soccer now have an accessible pathway to the Sounders.
Just three weeks after first releasing the news of this Seattle soccer alliance, the clubs faced off against each other at Starfire sports in the Far West Regional League. The energy on the field was palpable for both clubs, as these inaugural matches displayed some of the more qualitative facets of their budding relationship.
While both sides played attractive soccer, their motivations for performing well were indicative of the nature of this new partnership. Players for Seattle United performed at a higher level in order to state their case for further inclusion in the Academy. Additionally, since a number of players for Sounders Academy began their development with SU, they were determined to show how much they’ve improved since joining the Rave Green.
According to Academy Technical Director Marc Nicholls; “Playing against the teams from Seattle United is always tough. They are hardworking, well organized and extremely competitive. We know that we have to be at our best and fully focused: any chink in the armor and they will take full advantage."
The Sounders Academy teams narrowly edged out their elder counterparts in both matches. In order to facilitate further development, both the U-14 and U-15 Academy squads play up an age group in the Far West Regional League. The U-14s scored a pair of goals en route to a 2-1 victory, while the U-15s put on an organized display in a 1-0 win. The competitive nature and high quality soccer came as no surprise to U-14 assistant coach Brayton Knapp.
“We always look forward to games against Seattle United,” Knapp said. “Our most competitive games in league play tend to come against them, so it was enjoyable to watch these first games after we announced the official partnership.”
In the past year, the Sounders FC Academy has implemented various programming aimed at expanding the infrastructure of youth development in the club. As the organization aims to have the preeminent MLS Academy, new initiatives such as S2, younger Academy teams, SDP and club partnerships serve as vital cogs in cultivating Homegrown talent.
The recent addition of Seattle United as the Rave Green’s official youth partner in the state of Washington will hopefully serve as a vital piece in the puzzle as the Sounders aim to develop talent for the first team. However, even the players who do not make the transition to the Academy will ultimately benefit from the coaching education programs, as well as increased interaction with the biggest club in the Pacific Northwest.