Sounders FC U-23 begins its Premier Development League season tonight at Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23.
This is the first of three road matches to open the season for the Pierce County-based club, which will make its home debut May 25 against the Victoria Highlanders at Franklin Pierce High School.
Other members of the PDL Northwest Division are the defending champion Kitsap Pumas, North Sound Seawolves, Washington Crossfire, Portland Timbers U-23, and the Fraser Valley Mariners.
Sounders U-23 formerly played as the Tacoma Tide, and the rebranding means not only new uniforms and crests, but also a connection to more players of interest to Seattle Sounders FC.
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“The reality is this team is a developmental ground for the first team,” said Darren Sawatzky, who is the U-23 coach and also director of youth development for the MLS Sounders.
“The guys that came out of our academy – guys like Darwin Jones, Jamael Cox, Troy Peterson – these guys are good soccer players. They’re being looked at by the first team on some level. The whole sell is to come watch the future of Sounders FC. We’ll also have some college players who are possible draft picks next year in MLS.”
However, the nature of the developmental league means Sawatzky hasn’t had much time to mold Sounders U-23 into a team, and he is as interested as anyone in how they play together.
“The reality is that our players showed up (Thursday and Friday) and a few more will show up,” Sawatzky said. “There’s not a huge preparation period, but that’s indicative of the league. Outside of Kitsap – who plays their players and has had them in for a month – most everybody has to train quickly and get (acclimated) quickly.”
The PDL plays a 16-game schedule that runs through mid-July.