There are a few teams at the FIFA U-17 World Cup event that possesses consistency as of the United States. Not only they are one of the most consistent teams but also a team that is eager to prove a point at the world youth level. The USA U-17 side will be participating for the 16th time, which is more than all the other 23 teams qualified for the main event in India.
Despite featuring so many times, USA's best finish has been the fourth spot in the 1999 edition. Interestingly, that edition is still regarded as the most notable contribution at the global level. The then skipper Landon Donovan stole the limelight for his country in New Zealand and was Team USA's top-scorer at the tournament. The USA narrowly missed the chance to book a place in the final as they lost to Australia on penalties in the semi-final before crumbling to a 0-2 defeat against Ghana in the third place playoff.
The Stars and Stripes have only missed out on qualification just once – in 2013. Moreover, they have also managed quarter-final appearances on four occasions, most recently at Peru in the 2005 edition.
The previous edition in Chile was nothing short of a nightmare for USA. The team crumbled under pressure in a group which consisted of eventual winners Nigeria, hosts Chile and Croatia. They crashed out of the tournament without a single win and managed to eke out just a solitary point from the three group games for the first time since 2001.
Earlier this year, Team USA had a fantastic run at the U-17 CONCACAF Championships but they could not make the most of it after crumbling to Mexico in the final of the continental event. it was a tough loss as the USA were undefeated till then. In the final, USA drew first blood but Mexico equalised in stoppage time before sealing a shootout victory. The 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship’s ‘Best XI’, as voted by the Technical Study Group of the tournament consisted of 5 players from USA – goalkeeper Justin Garces, defenders Jaylin Lindsey and James Sands, midfielder Chris Durkin and forward Josh Sargent. Interestingly, USA and Mexico played an exciting seven-goal thriller in their group stage game, which the USA won.
With that win, they successfully managed to put an end to Mexico's 25-game unbeaten streak in the tournament. The 4-3 win was also USA U-17 side’s first victory against their arch-rivals in the history of the continental finals.
The job to handle a huge team such as the USA is a huge task in itself. Former Major League Soccer coach John Hackworth, who took over the reigns of the league's Eastern Conference team – the Philadelphia Union between 2012 to 2014 from Richie Williams after serving as assistant manager until 2012 – is considered to be the right man to lead the side.
Hackworth is familiar with the pressure and expectations that come along as the coach of the USA. He was the coach of the side during the 2005 and 2007 editions of the World Cup as well but the failure to get past quarter-final stage continued to loom over the side.
Team USA will take part in the International Festival 2017, which is slated to take place in Argentina, ahead of the World Cup in October.
At the forthcoming event, Josh Sargent will be one of the promising players to watch out for. After an impressive show at the U-20 level, all eyes will be on the 17-year-old who also became USA's youngest player to score at the U-20 event. His performances have caught the eye of a number of scouts from big clubs who are waiting for the forward's availability.
Before Sargent played at both U-20 and U-17 World Cups in the same year, a well-known name in football Freddy Adu achieved the feat. Sargent netted four goals and etched his name in the history books for the most goals scored at U-20 level, joining Jozy Altidore (2007) and Eddie Johnson (2003). Chris Durkin, Aayo Akinola are other players to watch out for.
Timothy Weah, son of the legendary footballer George Weah, will also be featuring for the USA. Tim has just recently signed a three-year professional contract with French club Paris-Saint Germain after helping their youth teams to a pair of French U-17 championships. Notably, George won the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year while with AC Milan in 1995 although he spent the first half of the year with PSG. So, all eyes will be on Tim and it'll be interesting to see how he handles the pressure.
According to a report on the Los Angeles Galaxy website, three academy members were named in the USA U-17’s preparation camp by Hackworth. Alex Mendez, Jake Arteaga, and Ulysses Llanez were named in the 24-man squad. Two Atlanta United academy prospects, goalkeeper Justin Garces and defender Charlie Asensio were also selected.
"As I’ve said before, the talent in this age group is deep, so it is always a challenge to finalise the roster due to the competition for spots. We hope that drives both the individuals and group to train and compete at the highest level,” Hackworth said.
Team USA are drawn against hosts India, Colombia and Ghana. The 2017 CONCACAF runners-up must see this as the perfect opportunity to impose themselves in India.
Published Date: Aug 05, 2017 12:23 am | Updated Date: Aug 05, 2017 09:05 am