Seven Sounders U23 players were given the opportunity to chase the dream after being drafted in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.
The first two rounds of the SuperDraft were part of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention on Jan. 13 in Los Angeles. Rounds three and four were via conference call on Jan. 17.
With more than 60 players drafted or directly signed into professional contracts in the past five years, the Sounders U23 Premier Development League (PDL) program has seen the fruit of all the labor and commitment to player development, according to a press release from the Tukwila-based team, which is a part of the Seattle Sounders organization.
Nike Hansen, a University of New Mexico product who played the 2014 season for the Sounders U23, went No. 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 fifth 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,” Delgado said 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 second 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 team Atlanta with the second 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,” Wheeler-Ominu said. “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.”
Brandt Bronico immediately followed Wheeler-Ominu as the third pick in the third round by 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 third 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,” Wingate said. “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 seasons. Sounders FC drafted Bjornethun with the 22nd pick of the fourth 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 (Sounders U23 general manager and coach) Darren (Sawatzky) and the Sounders U23 team,” Bjornethun said.
The Sounders U23 team will host tryouts March 25 and 26 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.