The Seattle Sounders used their first-round pick, 23rd overall, on Kalani Kossa-Rienzi from the University of Washington. The Sounders made two more selections, but the Seattle draft implications reached a bit further than that.
With Seattle’s other two draft picks they selected centerback Antino Lopez in the second round, and forward Buba Fofanah in the third. Lopez, 21, played 5,913 minutes in 66 games with 65 starts for the Duke Blue Devils. Prior to attending Duke, Lopez was part of the Sounders Academy during the 2019-20 season before the rest of the season was canceled due to the onset of the pandemic in 2020. He also spent time in preseason with the First Team in 2020 playing in scrimmages against Uruguayan club Peñarol and Loyola Marymount University. While with the Sounders Academy Lopez also drew some youth national team attention, playing in the 2019 Nike Friendlies with the US U-17s.
Fofanah, who turned 22 throughout14, is a dynamic attacker who took time to establish himself as a regular starter at the University of Portland, but was productive whether playing as a sub or from the start. He made 30 starts in 54 appearances during his career in Portland, scoring 16 goals and notching 11 assists in 2,516 minutes for a goal contribution average of 0.966 per 90 minutes. In 2023 he proved to be a key player, starting all 17 of his appearances and scoring nine goals with six assists in 1,075 minutes (1.4 g+a/90). Fofanah scored or assisted in 13 of his 17 appearances in 2023.
Beyond the players selected by the Sounders, there were a number of local players and former Academy kids in the draft. Most notably, Nate Jones from UW was selected by Austin FC with the fifth overall pick of the draft. Jones, a CB from Gig Harbor, was then traded to the Colorado Rapids in a deal that included a pick swap between the teams and $250k in General Allocation Money. His selection marks the fourth consecutive draft in which UW has had a player taken in the first 10 picks, and is the fifth UW CB taken in the first round in that time. Since 2020, 12 UW players have either been drafted or signed to Homegrown Player deals.
Another draft pick with local connections was Stas Korzeniowski from the University of Pennsylvania, selected 53rd overall by the Philadelphia Union. The 6’4” forward from Skillman, N.J. spent last summer playing in USL League 2 with Ballard FC, and scored a hat trick in the team’s 4-3 overtime win in the Western Conference Final over Ventura County Fusion on their way to winning the championship.
Several other players with Academy ties went undrafted, as UW’s Peter Kingston and Khai Brisco, and University of Maryland goalkeeper Jamie Lowell all went through the draft’s three rounds without having their names called. Likewise, Tacoma Defiance CB Elias Katsaros was draft eligible but was not selected. He is already under contract with Defiance and is expected to return in 2024. It’s possible that some or all of those other players at least show up for preseason with Defiance. All of them spent significant time in the Sounders Academy.