Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Seven more Sounders U23 players received the opportunity to chase the dream after getting drafted in the 2017 MLS Super Draft. With over 60 players now drafted or directly signed into professional contracts in the past five years, the Sounders u23 PDL program is seeing the fruit of all the labor and commitment to player development.
Nike Hansen, a University of New Mexico product who played the 2014 season for the Sounders U23, went number 9 in the first round to the Columbus Crew. A young gun for the Sounders U23 that season, Niko scored important goals for the PDL Northwest Division team.
Guillermo Delgado was drafted 5th in the second round, 22nd overall, by the Chicago Fire after spending the past two seasons with the Sounders U23. The University of Delaware product led the Sounders U23 to the 2015 PDL Western Conference Championship and into the playoffs again in 2016.
“My time with the Sounders U23 enabled me to grow as a player by competing against some of the best players in college,” said Delgado from the draft floor, “I had a great time and I appreciate all of the things they have done for me.”
Following Delgado was 2014 Sounders U23 starting midfielder, Thomas DeVillardi. MLS expansion side, Minnesota United, drafted DeVillardi with the 20th pick in the 2nd round (42nd overall). DeVillardi played college soccer with Delgado at Delaware after transferring from Duquesne.
The third round of the draft saw Andrew Wheeler-Ominu from Harvard selected by expansion side Atlanta with the 2nd pick of the round (46th overall). A versatile player, Wheeler-Ominu saw time at right back and through the midfield for the Sounders U23 in 2016.
“Seattle introduced me to the most professional environment I had been in in my life. From the coaches, the trainings, level of competition, and training room, it was truly a professional environment and was invaluable to my development in learning what it means to be a pro. I am very happy to try and continue to learn what that means,” explained Wheeler-Ominu.
Brandt Bronico immediately followed Wheeler-Ominu with the 3rd pick in the 3rd round to Chicago. Following his Sounders U23 teammate, Jonathan Campbell, Bronico will suit for the Chicago Fire after playing the 2015 season with the Sounders U23 team alongside Campbell.
With the 10th pick in the 3rd round, NYCFC selected Chris Wingate from the University of New Hampshire. A starting midfielder for the Sounders U23 in 2016, Wingate helped the team to a playoff appearance.
“I had a great experience playing with the Sounders U23 and it really set me up for success in my final college season,” said Wingate, “I wouldn’t have been drafted if I hadn’t played this past summer in Seattle.”
Kyle Bjornethun is a Sounders Academy alum and has played for the Sounders U23 for two different seasons. Sounders FC drafted Bjornethun with the 22nd pick of the 4th round.
“I grew a lot playing PDL for Sounders U23. With high quality training, great staff, and good competition, I am very glad to have stayed with the Sounders organization. I credit my growth over the summer to Darren (Sawatzky) and the Sounders U23 team,” Bjornethun said today via phone.
The Sounders U23 team will host tryouts March 25th and March 26th at Sunset Stadium in Sumner. Training and competition for the PDL side will start in May as the Sounders U23 look to help the next crop of players further develop and chase the dream of professional soccer.
For more than two decades, the PDL has helped high-caliber players rise to the professional ranks. More than 550 PDL alumni participated in the 2016 Major League Soccer and United Soccer League regular seasons. Among the PDL alumni currently competing professionally include 2016 Major League Soccer Rookie of the Year Jordan Morris, 2016 MLS Defender of the Year Matt Hedges, Sierra Leone National Team member Kei Kamara, Iran National Team member Steven Beitashour and U.S. Men's National Team members Brad Guzan, DeAndre Yedlin and Sacha Kljestan. The PDL has proven to be an important stepping-stone for top professionals now playing throughout the world, with 70 percent of all MLS draftees having PDL experience. The PDL provides elite collegiate players the opportunity to taste a higher level of competition while maintaining their eligibility.