Brayton Knapp, the head coach of the Seattle Sounders Academy U-15 team, will be participating in the MLS Elite Formation Coaching License (EFCL) program. The program is a partnership between MLS and the French Football Federation intended to improve the quality of coaching at the development level within MLS. Knapp is one of 25 coaches from across MLS teams participating in the 7-week program, which takes place over an 18-month period from February 2023 to July 2024. The program starts on February 1 with a week of sessions just outside of Paris at the INF Clairefontaine, one of 13 elite French football academy training centers.
Following the week of sessions, the program includes a week of club observation where the coaches will spend time with nine European clubs including Arsenal, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, AS Monaco, FC Nantes, and Stade Rennais. In addition to the 7-week program, Knapp and the other coaches will also meet in smaller regional groups twice during the 18 months for field instruction and evaluations.
Knapp’s involvement in the program continues a history of participation from the Sounders’ developmental ranks. This will be the fifth cohort for the program since its inception in 2013, and Knapp is the latest in a line of individuals from the Sounders staff to join. Most recently, while serving as the U-17 Head Coach, Chris Little (now assistant coach with the Colorado Rapids) completed the program in 2018. Before him, Director of Scouting Sean Henderson, former U-15 Head Coach Dan Lock (Head of Coaching & Individual Development for the Columbus Crew academy), and former Academy Directors Darren Sawatzky (currently Chief Sporting Officer and Head Coach of the Richmond Kickers) and Marc Nicholls (now Technical Director of the Columbus Crew) completed the program. Sounders Assistant Coach Freddy Juarez also completed the program while with Real Salt Lake as part of the first cohort.
The EFCL program’s influence has already contributed to the growth and improvement of the Sounders Academy and development system that has seen back-to-back U-17 Generation Adidas titles in recent years and has helped to develop 21 Homegrown Players so far.
Knapp has ventured abroad to broaden his coaching and development understanding before. In 2015, when Knapp was the Sounders U-14 coach and leading the Sounders Discovery Program, he spent time with the academies of Bayern Munich and the Premier League’s Brentford FC. The trip gave him the opportunity to see how a well-established academy system at a powerhouse club operates with Bayern, as well as how a much smaller club with a new academy system — Brentford’s academy was relaunched in 2012 — was competing with much bigger London clubs for local talent and developing those players for one of the best leagues in the world. This latest opportunity should help to improve the coaching available in the Sounders Academy throughout all of the age groups, and seems to bode well for Knapp’s future as well.