Sounders Academy is young, but playing for a long future

Jane G Photography

With all the success of DeAndre Yedlin it is tempting to think about the next HomeGrown star. The Seattle Sounders are thinking about that and decades further in the future.

DeAndre Yedlin is having a great start to the season. His contributions both on defense and offense prove that he is ready now. It is tempting to look ahead to the next contributor from the young Academy. Maybe that's Jordan Morris who just appeared in both a Sounders U18 (scored a goal) match and the Sounders Reserve game on Sunday. The Seattle Sounders are certainly looking at a short list of future First Team players, but they are also looking much longer.

"You don't just walk in and say, ‘This is what we're doing.' You think about what makes sense for us in the next 20, 30 years, not what makes sense between now and June," Sawatzky explained about how Sounders FC will adjust to his learnings. "Right now, I'm still kind of marinating over a lot of information and then I will share it and allow other people to marinate. Then we'll see what makes sense over the next stage and makes sense for us to be."

Sounders Youth Technical Director Sawatzky made those statements shortly after returning from a trip to France and Spain that will dramatically expand his knowledge base about the formation of pro players. It is part of the FFF/MLS partnership and is a bit of a long play by the team and the league.

It is easy to forget that young locals like Lamar Neagle are just a couple years too old for the Sounders Academy to have had an impact.

"There's so many what ifs growing up," Neagle told Sounder at Heart after practice last week. "Obviously having some of the best coaches in Washington State being under the same roof and coming up in the program would be amazing. We had huge talent at my age anyway but I can't imagine a program like that. It would have been great anyway for everybody. Washington soccer is growing along with soccer in the US."

Sawatzky also talked about the rate of change. It is going to continue to increase. He pointed out that Athletic Bilbao, where he spent a week as part of the program, has a population base of just over one million people. The Sounders catchment area is nearly six million. Even without soccer being the top sport there is plenty of talent, but they must be as effective as a club like Bilbao and maximize their efficiency in player development.

One of those advancements will be going from the semi-formal pre-Academy to a full USSDA U-14 squad. The changes from Sawatzky's 700 hours of formal lessons and 18 month education will take longer. When you look at the changes from Neagle's era, to Yedlin's to the current Academy players you can see just how dramatic the shift can be.

The Now may be now, but the Future is a long play.

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