As part of the 50th Anniversary of Washington Youth Soccer, we want to know who the best men, women, and soccer citizens have been over the first 50 years of WA Youth Soccer. In a soccer-rich community like Washington, the Top 50 players could be hotly debated...
In the top tier of professional clubs, it’s a wildly successful development program that sends a homegrown player through to the first team once every three or four years. But every generation or so the stars align, and in the early Eighties the Evergreen State burst forth with a bumper crop of players unlike any other.
“In all the (39) years I’ve been here, I’d put that recruiting class up against anybody, any group of players coming out of the state at any time in any given period,” exclaimed Bobby Howe.
It was the summer of 1982, when four teens came of age, becoming eligible to be signed by the original Seattle Sounders. Tim Bartro, Bill Crook, Chance Fry and Geoff Wall all turned 18 within a 5-month span and were delivered to Howe, then assistant coach and head of the Sounders development program, to further develop from amateur protégés into productive pros.
By the end of the 1983 season, all four were regularly seeing action. Along with fellow young locals Mark Peterson and Jeff Stock (both then 23) and Brian Schmetzer (21), the Sounders looked to be a team truly representative of Seattle and full of promise. Unfortunately, the NASL club folded, and they all scattered, only to reunite in twos and threes with different clubs over the next 10 years.
Howe mostly stayed home, serving as Washington Youth Soccer’s coaching director for 12 years, then U.S. Soccer Director of Coaching from 1996-2000 before returning to the Northwest to coach Portland’s reborn Timbers (2000-05).
Three members of that impactful recruiting class–Bartro, Crook and Fry–are among Howe’s selection of the top Washington Youth Soccer players over the first 50 years, as are Peterson, Schmetzer and Stock.
“If the Sounders had continued I’m sure they would’ve been solid members for years to come,” said Howe.
Howe's Top 18 – Made in Washington