Seattle Sounders midfielder Danny Leyva and forward Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez are in Bradenton, Fla., with United States U-17s men’s national team for the Concacaf Championship, which is the qualifying event for the 2019 U-17 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
U.S. Head Coach Raphael Wicky, whose credentials include 75 caps for the Swiss national team and a sterling run to the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League Knockout Round as manager of FC Basel, was quick to praise Ocampo-Chavez and Leyva.
“I’m very happy to have them here,” Wicky said ahead of the first match against Canada on Thursday. “I met both of them at the mini camp in early April, and I was very happy with their performances.”
Ocampo-Chavez, who signed a First Team Homegrown contract on Wednesday, enters the Concacaf Championship as the leading scorer for the young Yanks, with five goals from 14 caps since the start of the new cycle in 2017. He was recently awarded the Golden Boot with six goals in six games at the Generation adidas Cup Champions Division as the Sounders became the first MLS club to both reach the final and win the event.
Leyva, the youngest Homegrown signing in club history, was named tournament MVP as the Sounders U-17s toppled international giants like Flamengo, West Ham, River Plate and Valencia CF. On Sunday, he was an unused substitute in Seattle’s 1-1 draw with LAFC, making him the youngest player in Sounders history to earn a spot on an MLS matchday roster.
Wicky was impressed by how the young Sounders performed against some of the top clubs in the world, and he believes they will be instrumental to the United States’ success as the Stars and Stripes seek qualification for the U-17 World Cup.
“I was at GA Cup [for a week] and I saw almost all of their games,” he said. “They played really, really well, and I’m convinced that they will be really important for our team. Alfonso is in great form, scoring a lot of goals at GA Cup as well as working hard for the team. Daniel just made an amazing experience being on the bench for the First Team, which hopefully gives him even more reason to fly and help the team and perform well. Both of them are important for this team.”
Ocampo-Chavez and Leyva will round out the group stage with matches against Barbados (May 4) and Guatemala (May 6).
If U.S. wins their group, they’ll face one of Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Guadeloupe or the Dominican Republic in the Round of 16 with a spot in the FIFA World Cup on the line, as all four semifinalists automatically qualify for the tournament.