Making History: Seattle Sounders U17s Win Generation adidas Cup
Marc Nicholls Speaks Out on Developing Talented Youth Soccer Players – the Road to Victory is Experience. A highly experienced U17 squad, the Seattle Sounders team has beaten the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton FC, FC Basel (twice), Celtic FC and Saprissa.
The Seattle Sounders‘ Academy has just earned the title of 2019 GA Cup Champions by defeating some of the best young players in the global game. The Sounders U17s took on La Liga’s Valencia CF and defeated them in the historic final. The squad had already pushed past Brazilian side Flamengo, Argentine powerhouse River Plate and England’s West Ham United to earn their right to compete in the Champions Division final, and eventually lift up the GA Cup trophy in celebration.
The team is under the leadership of Marc Nichols who has been with Seattle Sounders since 2013 and has shaped the development of hundreds of players.
The two-time U.S. Academy coach of the year (2010 and 2012) joined the Seattle Sounders staff after three years (2011-13) as the Head Coach of the Carolina Dynamo of the USL PDL, where he led the team to the division title in all three seasons.
Nicholls holds his USSF National “A” License, the FIFA Futuro III program, as well as the prestigious French Formation License and he is a national staff member for U.S. Soccer.
We wanted to ask him for his thoughts on his U17s making history at the GA Cup.
SoccerToday Interview With Seattle Sounders Technical Director Marc Nicholls
Diane Scavuzzo: First of all, congratulations! Why do you believe your team won the GA Cup?
Marc Nicholls: The U17s have a lot of big games experiences — we made a conscious effort a few years ago to expose them to strong competition on a regular basis. We have been playing these DA league games, and while they are decent, they lack intensity —so we took the boys overseas and put them in situations where they would be uncomfortable.
Diane Scavuzzo: Seattle Sounders Academy often plays players up with older teams?
Marc Nicholls: Yes. We made a conscious effort — and this year, we brought an 0’4 and a ’05 with us to the GA Cup.
In fact, there are members on of the U17s team for who this is their third GA Cup.
Diane Scavuzzo: The players on your U17 squad have a lot of experience winning against international competition? Is that what led to this victory?
Marc Nicholls: Ultimately, it is the character and the intangibles that get you there … We scored three goals in the last minute of the game to beat the opposition and that shows their mental strength and a physical capacity.
I am proud of the boys, I know what they are capable of.
We lost the first game to Valencia. Even after a loss, it is important to continue to be who you are and stay positive. Winning this final showed how the players were able to bounce back, and how resilient they are.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why did you take the team to Europe to train?
Marc Nicholls: There is massive social and educational value to going to Europe.
We are a little isolated here and whenever we can get rich experiences, we want to. It was important to expose our players to different ways of playing the game — we also wanted to show them a little bit of the world too.
You learn a lot about a player when you take them abroad, and out of the comfort of their daily lives. The players experience discomfort in many ways — from jet lag to playing in lots of games along with new food and sometimes a different language. For some players, this is the first time they are away from their parents. Some thrive, some struggle, some learn.
Diane Scavuzzo: Are the games in Europe better?
Marc Nicholls: The DA is hit and miss — a lot of good games, but not enough. When you enter a tournament, every game counts. More is at stake when you are getting into the quarterfinals and playing must-win games to progress.
This creates additional pressure — and when you are representing your country, your club,
You have to thrive under pressure.
Diane Scavuzzo: There was a lot of pressure on your team in the GA Cup final.
Marc Nicholls: In the final, we had to scratch and claw for everything. We wanted our boys prepared for games like this. That is ultimately the difference, and what helped us win.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is next for your U17s?
Marc Nicholls: Many of our players on the U17s are now entering the phase of the professional game.
Now about translating these experiences into the MLS and USL.
How the players’ eat, sleep and take care of themselves — and how they do at school — is all important.
When a player is past the U17s, they are part of the club more than a team. At that age, they are given opportunities to excel.
Here are a few videos:
For a great recap of the action in the Final Match – please check out this Seattle Sounders article