The MLS NEXT playoffs are all wrapped up, which means that it’s time for awards and recognition. Although the Sounders Academy U17s fell to FC Delco from Pennsylvania in the MLS NEXT Cup Round of 16, two players from the team were among the 45 players chosen to participate in an MLS NEXT All-Star Game that will take place during MLS All-Star Week in the Twin Cities.
Christopher Aquino and Stuart Hawkins were both chosen in no small part due to their contributions when the Sounders U17s beat Tigres, among a number of other sides, on their way to winning a second consecutive Generation Adidas Cup. Hawkins took home the tournament MVP award for his performance at centerback for the champions, while Aquino contributed game-winning goals in the semifinal and final.
The MLS NEXT All-Star game will be played between two teams, East and West, comprised of U18-eligible academy players. 28 of the 29 MLS academies had at least one player selected, along with five non-MLS academies that compete in MLS NEXT; Chicago Fire are the lone MLS academy not sending a player to the competition.
Hawkins has already made his way into the professional ranks on the strength of his performances with the Sounders Academy, as well as the quality he’s shown in training with both the Seattle Sounders First Team and Tacoma Defiance. He signed with Defiance just over a month ago after playing his first game with the team a month earlier. Since then he’s made another three appearances, all wins, as he continues his impressive professional start.
Aquino’s not yet made a professional appearance, but he has spent time training with the Sounders and Defiance. While Hawkins is a big CB with good feet, an eye for passes and the ability to hit them, Aquino’s at his best on the opposite end of the field. He’s a technical attacker, clever and creative, equally capable of setting up a teammate or finishing a play off himself. They’ll both showcase their skills at the All-Star Game on Wednesday, August 10, and before long they’ll both surely be doing the same with Tacoma Defiance.
Along with the All-Star Game announcement, MLS NEXT also announced the Goal of the Year winners for all four age groups. Sebastian Gomez brought home yet another accolade for the Sounders, claiming the U15 Goal of the Year.