The Seattle Sounders have seen the investment in the club’s academy pay dividends through the first half of the season, highlighted by the win away against Austin FC in which the team started five teenagers — all of whom have made their way through the developmental system — and subbed another on later in the game. A necessary part of the investment and growth of the developmental system is bringing in the right coaches and leadership to help guide the Academy and the players. The latest addition to those ranks is Steve Cooke, who joins the organization as head coach of the U-17 team.
Cooke got his coaching career started early, first working as the head coach for his boyhood club Sheffield Wednesday FC’s academy team at the age of 22 in 1991. Cooke coached at the Sheffield Wednesday academy until making a move to the US in the Summer of 1996, leading the academy during some of the club’s best years. He spent time working at a few different youth clubs between ‘96 and 2010, at which point he joined the Colorado Rapids. Initially brought on as the Rapids’ Academy Director, Cooke also spent time as an assistant coach — he was part of the staff that saw the Rapids finish second in the West and reach the 2016 Western Conference Finals before falling to the Sounders — as well as a brief stint as interim manager following Pablo Mastroeni’s firing in 2017.
Since leaving the Rapids, Cooke has earned the USSF Pro License — becoming one of only around 60 people to complete the course — and worked as head coach and technical director of USL Championship team OKC Energy before serving as director of soccer for Phoenix Rising FC from the end of 2019 to May of 2021.
Cooke’s wealth and breadth of experience make him an excellent addition and a good fit with the existing staff in the Sounders Academy. He takes over the U-17s for Mike Morris, who was added to the Tacoma Defiance staff as an assistant coach. Cooke joins a staff that is led by Academy Director Gary Lewis — who worked in the academies of Liverpool FC, Derby County and Everton — and Director of Player Development Henry Brauner.
The work being done by Cooke and the rest of the Academy staff has already drawn praise from Brian Schmetzer. Hopefully, that’s just the beginning as he helps to build up the next wave of Sounders talent.