USA on brink of historical past at CONCACAF U-17 Championship

The United States under-17 males’s nationwide workforce has a chance to do what no different nation achieved once they play host Guatemala Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, FS2): qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup for a document 18th time.

Only Brazil has participated within the biennial competitors, thought to be a launchpad for future stars, as typically because the U.S. have; Brazil’s U-17 squad will shoot for his or her 18th look when South America’s qualifying match kicks off subsequent month.

The younger Americans monitor document at this degree means that reaching the primary occasion in Peru in November will likely be simple. After all, U.S. has didn’t qualify simply as soon as (in 2013) for the reason that inaugural U-17 World Cup in 1985. The present model has rolled via all comers on the ongoing CONCACAF U-17 Championship, successful all 4 of their video games and outscoring foes 16-1 en path to Tuesday’s decisive quarterfinal. The 4 groups that advance to the semis will even guide their journeys to Peru.  

Still, Tuesday’s contest will likely be tough. The U.S.’s first 4 assessments — victories towards Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada and Dominican Republic — got here in entrance of meager crowds. For this one, the 26,000-seat Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City — the nationwide stadium — will likely be full of blue-clad followers determined to see the native aspect pull an upset.    

“Everything is on the line, right?” U.S. coach Gonzalo Segares stated after Saturday’s 7-0 drubbing of the Dominicans within the spherical of 16. “First that World Cup ticket, and later on to win the tournament,” — one thing the crimson, white and blue have not achieved since 2011.

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A early glimpse of future USMNT stars… 

Historically, the U-17 nationwide workforce has launched future standouts to American followers. 

Close to half of the 26 members of U.S. senior workforce that superior to the knockout stage on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar used the U-17 World Cup as a popping out get together. Kellyn Acosta performed in 2011. Shaq Moore captained the 2013 model. Tyler Adams, Luca de la Torre, Christian Pulisic and Haji Wright have been among the many well-known 2015 cohort. Two years later, the headliners have been full again Sergiño Dest and forwards Josh Sargent and Tim Weah. Gio Reyna and Joe Scally have been on the newest squad to compete, in 2019. (The 2021 U-17 World Cup was cancelled.)

A technology earlier than that, Damarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan starred on the 1999 U-17 World Cup in New Zealand, the place Donovan received the Golden Ball as tourney MVP with Beasley taking residence the silver. The Americans’ fourth-place end that yr stays their finest — a run Segares’ workforce hopes to emulate, or higher, this fall. Provided after all that they get there.  

If they’ll, making noise in Peru is a sensible ambition. While the senior workforce might be decade or extra, not less than, away from having the ability to actually stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Argentina or France, nontraditional powers have thrived on the U-17 degree. Nigeria, which has by no means made the final eight of a senior World Cup, has a document 5 U-17 titles. Ghana has two. So does Mexico, the Americans’ chief rival.  

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… simply do not forget these are children 

While a number of gamers on the U.S. workforce presently in Guatemala challenge to be future senior teamers (extra on that under), something that occurs on the U-17 degree comes with an enormous asterisk.  

By definition, these gamers are all nonetheless minors. Some are full-time professionals, some aren’t. Only a handful will go on to have lengthy professional careers in MLS, lower-tier U.S. leagues or overseas. Those who may go on to play for the USMNT at a World Cup will probably be offset by those that merely do not pan out for any variety of causes, retire of their early 20s, and should get “real” jobs.  

Development is not linear. Plenty of eventual stars bloom late. Take Weston McKennie who was lower from that 2015 workforce that includes Adams, De la Torre, Pulisic and Wright. Tim Ream and Matt Turner performed each minute for the U.S. in Qatar; not solely did neither signify the U-17s, Ream and Turner have been by no means picked for the U-20 or U-23 nationwide groups, both. 

Figueroa, Medina key gamers vs. Guatemala    

That’s a part of the fantastic thing about the U-17 degree. You cannot at all times inform who will go on to succeed it on the highest degree and who will not. (Freddy Adu, anybody?) Still, it was clear even on the time that the likes of Adams, Pulisic and Reyna had a shot.  

There will likely be some intriguing kids on the sector on Tuesday. Among the names to look at are midfielder Cruz Medina, a San Jose Earthquakes prospect; fellow 16-year-old Keyrol Figueroa of Liverpool, a ahead who leads these Americans with 4 targets and whose father, former Honduran World Cup participant Maynor Figueroa, spent seven years in England’s Premier League; midfielder Adrian Gill, 17, signed final yr to a professional take care of Barcelona; and midfielder Christopher Aquino, who performs for Seattle Sounders improvement affiliate Tacoma Defiance. 

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Medina, Figueroa and Gill mixed for a fairly winner in final week’s 1-0 victory over Canada:  

“We keep improving,” stated Aquino, who scored twice within the final U.S. match. “For Tuesday, [it’s] the same mentality as every other game.”

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