The Sounders Academy sent a U-14 team from the Sounders Discovery Program to Sheffield, England to compete in the Sheffield Trophy — a tournament previously known as the Youdan Trophy — over the weekend. Monday morning, that team became the fourth consecutive Sounders Academy team to win the tournament. The first, in 2016, was a U-16 team, but the teams that won in 2017, 2018, and 2019 have all been U-14 teams.
The tournament is a proving ground for young talent from some top teams around the world, with Sounders Academy teams facing off against the likes of FC Basel, Manchester United, Everton FC, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and JHR Rotterdam in the past. This time the U-14s only played against teams from the UK, facing Heart of Midlothian of Scotland, Sheffield United of England, and Maiden City Soccer of Northern Ireland in the group stage before defeating Doncaster Rovers and Sheffield United (again) on the way to the final. The Sounders U-14s outscored their opponents 15-5 en route to the final. The championship saw them face off against Celtic FC, historically the biggest team in Scotland, and the Sounders absolutely ran away with the game on their way to a 7-1 victory. The result never seemed to be in doubt, as Seattle was on top 4-0 at halftime.
Victory in youth tournaments is hardly a guarantee of future success, but this particular competition has served as a jumping-off point for Sounders youth players in the past. Azriel Gonzalez signed his first professional contract less than a year after winning the Golden Boot at the 2016 Youdan Trophy. Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez followed that accomplishment by doing the same and winning the Golden Boot in the 2017 edition of the tournament. Danny Leyva, Danny Robles, Alec Diaz, and Ray Serrano are just a few of the other current pros in Seattle’s development system who have used the competition in Sheffield to showcase their talents against top competition. We may not know the names of every player who competed in the Sheffield Trophy this year, but if the past is any indication then we’ll be getting familiar with them sooner rather than later.