PREVIEW: Tacoma Defiance eyes successful inaugural season in MLS NEXT Pro

As the Seattle Sounders first team navigate their 2022 MLS season, the foundations for the club’s future will continue to be laid with the Tacoma Defiance.

The 2022 season will mark a transformative year for Defiance on multiple fronts. Most notably, after spending the club’s early years competing in the USL Second Division Championship, this season will mark its first as part of the recently created MLS NEXT Pro league.

The advent of MLS NEXT is a watershed moment for player development in the country, as each MLS club will now have an affiliate team dedicated entirely to creating a journey for players from their development academies to their first team. While Seattle has already used Defiance in this capacity to great effect as a member of the USL Championship, Sounders vice president of player development Henry Brauner says MLS NEXT can only serve to increase opportunities and the resources available for the next generation of young talent.

“I think there will be more opportunities for young players, there will be different challenges for our young players, which is a good thing because we always want to challenge our youngsters,” Brauner said. “I think we’re going to be able to get a lot of upside and a lot of positives.”

Over the past two years, Seattle has begun to reap the rewards of the club’s youth development journey, as players like Danny Leyva, Josh Atencio, Reed Baker-Whiting and Obed Vargas have all signed with the first team and have started ordering MLS minutes. All four began their professional careers with Tacoma after rising through the youth ranks, proof of concept for Sounders and Defiance head coach Wade Webber.

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