A pair of Sounders FC Academy players have committed to perennial powerhouse Akron and another will play for NCAA College Cup finalist Clemson, as part of 15 commitments on NCAA’s National Signing Day on Wednesday.
Defender Nicholas Hinds and goalkeeper Tor Saunders are both headed to Akron, one of the premier college soccer programs in the country over the past decade. The Zips reached the College Cup for the third time in seven seasons in 2015 and have qualified for the NCAA tournament every year since 2005.
Originally from Plantation, Fla., Hinds joined the Sounders FC Academy last year after spurning recruiting interest from ACC powerhouse North Carolina. He also has two caps with the U.S. Under-20 team.
Saunders, who hails from Bothell, Wash., verbally committed to Akron in November after he was selected to join the Sounders Academy at 15 years old.
Formerly led by current Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter but now coached by third-year boss Jared Embick, Akron has produced a wealth of MLS players, perhaps most notably former Sounders No. 1 overall draft pick Steve Zakuani and former Sounders defender and current U.S. national team regular DeAndre Yedlin.
Sounders FC Academy midfielder Harrison Kurtz, meanwhile, has committed to Clemson, last year’s runner-up in the College Cup. A native of Sammamish, Wash., Kurtz has played with the Sounders FC Academy since 2012.
The Tigers have qualified for the NCAA tournament each of the past three years and lost to Stanford in the NCAA title game in December. Their most notable alumni include former USMNT regulars and World Cup veterans Oguchi Onyewu and Stuart Holden.
Four Sounders FC Academy players will stay in Seattle next year, with attending the University of Washington. Forward Handwalla Bwana, defender Kasey French and midfielder John Magnus will all play for the Huskies, who have reached the NCAA tournament three of the past four years. Midfielder Connor Noblat has committed to Seattle University, which reached the third round of the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since making the jump to Division I.
Two additional players will stay in state at Gonzaga University in Spokane: Defender Davis Behnke and midfielder Brady Henderson, the nephew of Sounders Sporting Director Chris Henderson.
Here is the complete list of college-bound Sounders FC Academy Players in 2016:
Henry Baldwin – Dartmouth
Roko Bedalov – Elon University (N.C.)
Davis Behnke - Gonzaga
Handwalla Bwana – Washington
John Dale – Davidson University (N.C.)
Burke Fahling – undecided
Kasey French – Washington
Joseph Hafferty – undecided
Brady Henderson – Gonzaga
Nicholas Hinds – Akron
Tobi Jnohope – Denver University
Harrison Kurtz – Clemson
John Magnus – Washington
Connor Noblat – Seattle University
Lorenzo Ramos – undecided
Ivory Randle – St. Mary’s College (Calif.)
Johnny Reynolds – Elon University (N.C.)
Tor Saunders - Akron