Sounders U23 Ready For Lamar Hunt US Open Cup

by Brett Gleason

Tacoma Stars owner Lane Smith, along with business partner Cliff McElroy, contribute to a wide variety of soccer endeavors in our region. A couple of those ventures are the Sounders U23 Men and Sounders Women teams.

Next week, the Sounders U23 United Soccer League team will begin competition in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, where they will advance to play some of the top professional soccer teams in the United States. The club's first match is set for Wednesday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Bonney Lake High School.

Fans of the Stars who catch a Sounders U23 match are likely to recognize some of their favorite players from the 2015-16 Stars playoff squad. Vince McCluskey, Raphael Cox, and Troy Peterson, along with others, are likely to log time in the coming matches.

"The US Open Cup represents another opportunity for the developing players in our club to get valuable minutes in meaningful competition,” Stars Head Coach and General Manager Darren Sawatzky said. “The PDL is different because the college player gets here and has to play games within days and sometimes hours of arrival. The Open Cup gives us more meaningful games to prepare them for league play and look to make a run so they can play against the players they wish to play with when they move up the soccer ladder in the US.”

In addition to his work with indoor players, Sawatzky has helped young players develop professionally under the Seattle Sounders umbrella for years and serves as the Head Coach and General Manager of the Sounders U23s. Some of the more notable players that have come through the 2015-16 MASL Coach of the Year’s system include DeAndre Yedlin and Jordan Morris.

"Soccer in the United States has changed in a very good way for the young player looking to head into the professional game,” Sawatzky said. “When I was in college, you had to call players to play pick up in the summer time. Now, you have multiple leagues at different levels so players can train and play with our Sounders U23 team, and when they are not getting minutes they can get games at the South Sound Shock in the local EPL WA league. It is a true development pyramid for the player and it allows incremental growth for them."

The Tacoma Stars serve as an integral piece of that development system in the Northwest.

"Having the Tacoma Stars in our arsenal of teams gives a professional top end for the players we help develop to complete this transition from amateur to professional soccer,” Sawatzky said. “A huge amount of credit has to go to Lane Smith and Cliff McElroy for running these teams and allowing us to help these players move up this ladder. With S2 and the Sounders FC first team, there is this carrot of soccer at each step on the ladder that players can see and fight for every day."

Mark your calendars to come watch the Sounders U23s compete in one of our nation’s oldest and most prestigious tournaments. For the official release on the event from Sounders U23, click here.