TUKWILA, Wash. – If you’re not yet familiar with Danny Leyva, it might be time to learn the name.
The 15-year-old became the youngest Homegrown Player in the history of Seattle Sounders FC on Tuesday, completing a remarkable rise that started during preseason and continued into his four-game run with Seattle’s USL affiliate Tacoma Defiance.
Leyva, who projects as a deep-lying midfielder after starting his youth career as an attack-minded No. 10, has the talent to back up the hype. While the Sounders have preached caution and patience, they also aren’t afraid to put him in an MLS match if the situation calls.
“I’m just really excited for this opportunity,” Leyva told reporters after Seattle’s Tuesday training session. “Signing with the Sounders, it’s a dream come true. All the hard work that I’ve put it in since I was little and all the people that have helped me throughout the way, I just want to give them a big thank you as well and I’m just super excited for this opportunity.
“It surprised me a lot. It’s been really quick,” he added. “But a lot of hard work has gotten me to where I am. But it’s been really surprising.”
Sounders general manager & president of soccer Garth Lagerwey called the signing “proof of concept” in regards to the youth movement he’s undertaken since joining the club in 2015. Seattle’s U-17 Development Academy team, which Leyva helped lead, won the national title last year over Atlanta United.
After that dominant run, the Sounders had several youngsters train with the first team during preseason, where Leyva drew rave reviews from his teammates and the coaching staff.
“We took 12 or 13 of them to preseason and then you just kind of turn them loose and see how it goes, and Danny ran with it,” Lagerwey said. “They partnered him with Victor Rodriguez in the preseason and Victor is a very serious, kind of quintessential pro. I think it rubbed off on Danny and it was the right model. Danny’s got a great mentality and he picked up everything.
“I think there’s a comparison to Cristian Roldan just in terms of how quickly he’s assimilated and how much he wants to learn,” Lagerway continued. "Danny has had the right approach and it paid off.”
Originally from Las Vegas, Leyva was spotted by Sounders academy director Marc Nicholls on a scouting trip at age 13 and eventually relocated to join Seattle’s academy.
Just two years later, he’s on the same roster with the likes of Nicolas Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz. While a first-team debut figures to be on the horizon in some capacity in 2019, Lagerwey said Leyva can still represent the United States at the 2019 U-17 FIFA World Cup and that he’ll feature at the Generation adidas Cup finals over the next two weeks.
“We believe he has the ability to play at [the MLS] level and that’s why we signed him,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. "Let’s take the age out of it.”