In the past two months, over 10 players from the Seattle Sounders player development system have received call-ups to their respective United States Youth National Teams.
Ranging from the U-14 to U-23 level, the recent slew of international invites is the latest sign of the club’s growing reputation as one of the top talent producers in the country.
“One of our goals as an Academy is to consistently produce players at each age for the future of the club,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development and Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “So, it’s been great that we’ve not only had so many players selected, but that they all performed really well.”
Much like the player pathway at the Seattle Sounders, there are layers to the USYNT programming.
Domestic national team camps are used to evaluate and expand the age-group specific player pool. If players impress in camp, they’ll make the roster for an international trip. Competing against the top talents in the country for playing time, they must elevate their game even higher to get minutes.
And if they can sustain those levels, they become a mainstay for their country, which is an important progression, as consistent national team involvement is an excellent medium for elite player development.
“At the younger ages it’s all about a process of identifying top talents,” said U-15 Head Coach Dan Lock. “So, there will be times when they get called in and times when they don’t get called in. I think they just have to keep their feet on the ground and enjoy the experience and continue to work hard.”
Five players across the Sounders Discovery Program and U-15 Academy team recently participated in a U.S. U-14 National Team talent identification camp. For Josh Hardin, Antonio Herrera and Reed Baker-Whiting, all of whom played one-year up on the U-15s this season, it was their second call-up to a regional identification camp.
“These young boys have done really well,” added Nicholls. “We threw them together for the Man City Cup, and they showed that, for a team that had never really played together, they can play really well. So, there’s a lot of promise. It’s no surprise that loads of them have been called into the national pool.”
Two more players that routinely play up an age group at the club level, striker Austin Brummett and defender Angel Martinez, recently traveled to Italy with the U.S. U-15s, where they received rave reviews from the national team staff.
Sounders Academy standouts Eric Kinzner and Sota Kitahara were key contributors for U.S. U-16 side that won an international tournament in the Czech Republic, while Sounders Homegrowns Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez and Danny Leyva turned plenty of heads as the United States booked a spot in the 2019 U-17 World Cup.
“I got a lot of good pointers, advice and situational ideas that I can improve on,” said Rogers. “So, it was good feedback that I can bring back here.”
Back in February 2016, Rogers received a call-up to the U.S. U-18 national team, making him one of four players throughout the entire Academy in the USYNT pool. It’s rather symbolic that, three years later, he’s one of almost 30 players to represent the Stars and Stripes in the past 18 months.
“It shows that [U.S. Soccer] is recognizing how good the Academy system is here,” added Rogers. “Every time there are [DA] games or a trip or a showcase, they’re looking at our guys because they know there’s talent here. And it shows in the number of players they keep calling up.”