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Sounders Academy Director leaves for Red Bulls II head-coaching gig

Gary Lewis had been in charge of Sounders Academy for almost exactly two years.

Liverpool FC Academy Portraits Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

The Seattle Sounders are looking for a new academy director, according to a public posting on TeamWorkOnline.com. The position reports to Director of Player Development Henry Brauner, who will lead the search.

The post had most previously been filled by Gary Lewis, who has taken a job as the New York Red Bulls II head coach, Sounder at Heart has learned. Red Bulls II have been the most successful MLS2 team in the USL Championship and will spend at least one more season there before presumably moving to MLS Next Pro. Lewis had previously coached the Sounder U17s, served in a similar role with the Philadelphia Union and has coached in the youth ranks of U.S. Soccer and Liverpool FC.

Lewis was just the Sounders’ third permanent academy head since its inception in 2010. Darren Sawatzky was the team’s first Director of Youth Development until 2014. That’s when Marc Nicholls took over and oversaw the academy’s evolution into what it is now. Nicholls served in that role until 2020 when he became Charlotte FC’s first Technical Director. Like both Sawatzky and Nicholls, Lewis was an internal promotion from the coaching ranks.

It was not immediately clear if there are any internal candidates for the academy director position, but current U17s coach Steve Cooke was probably overqualified when he took that position last June. Cooke has apparently interviewed for several MLS first-team positions, had previously headed up the Colorado Rapids’ academy, has head coaching experience in the USL and was Phoenix Rising’s Director of Soccer Development prior to joining the Sounders Academy.