CHICAGO, Illinois -- United States Under-17 Men's national team head coach John Hackworth named his 20-man roster today that will represent the U.S. at the 2005 FIFA Under-17 World Championship from September 16-October 2 in Peru.
Of the players selected, 14 were part of the squad that took first place in Heredia, Costa Rica, in April to qualify for the USA's 11th consecutive U-17 World Championship, continuing the streak as the only country to qualify for every World Championship at this age level.
The naming of the roster culminates more than two years of preparation for the U.S. players, who are members of the 40-player U.S. Soccer U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla. All but two of the players part of the 1988 class of players in Residency, with forward Josmer Altidore and third-choice goalkeeper Brian Perk making the roster from the younger 1989 age group.
The team will travel to Chiclayo, Peru, on Sunday, Sept. 11, and conduct five days of training in final preparation for Group C play with North Korea (Korea DPR), Italy and Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire). The U.S. will kick off the tournament against North Korea on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 12:45 p.m. CT, before facing Italy on Tuesday, Sept. 20 (3:30 p.m. CT) and concluding group play against Ivory Coast on Friday, September 23 (3:30 p.m. CT). The U.S. will play their first two group matches against North Korea and Italy at Estadio Elias Aguirre in Chiclayo, before moving to Lima to face Ivory Coast in their third and final group match at Estadio Nacional.
Fox Soccer Channel and Galavision will be televising all three of the USA's first round games. Between the two stations, all three of the matches will be shown live as Galavision will broadcast the opener against North Korea live and FSC will have live coverage of the Italy and Ivory Coast games. Fans can also follow every U.S. match at the U-17 World Championship live via ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.
"Over the past two years, these 20 players have demonstrated to me and the rest of the coaching staff that they belong on this roster and are ready to compete against the best at the World Championship," said Hackworth, who took over the head coaching duties last November and has compiled a 12-3-1 international record. "We have a few additions and changes to our team since the qualifying tournament that I believe will provide us with the best chance to advance out of our group and get us towards our ultimate goal of advancing to the final. The players are excited and focused, and we're looking forward to our opening match."
A major plus for the U.S. is the return of Quavas Kirk, who has recovered from a broken foot he suffered in early April that forced him to miss the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament. The standout midfielder has almost fully recovered and will be looking to return to the form that saw him dominate in the beginning of year when he recorded an astounding 16 goals and five assists in just 15 games. Kirk, who is one of two professionals on the squad after getting drafted by the L.A. Galaxy in the third round during the 2005 MLS SuperDraft, showed his value with both goals in a 2-0 victory over fellow World Championship participant China this past weekend.
Kirk's presence takes the goal scoring pressure off of forward Preston Zimmerman, who has been a consistent scoring threat in his own right since joining the U-17s in April of 2004. The Pasco, Wash., native has compiled 14 goals and 12 assists, shining when the stakes are highest, leading the U-17s in international goals scored with 11 strikes in just 29 games.
Forwards David Arvizu, Omar Gonzalez and Altidore will give Hackworth various options up front. Arvizu's composure and field awareness has complimented the hard-charging style of Zimmerman, as has the height of six-foot-four Gonzalez. Altidore has only played in a handful of games with the older U-17s, but has shown his mark with the younger team, leading the squad with 20 goals in 24 games this year.
Midfielders Ryan Soroka and Kyle Nakazawa will look to propel the U.S. attack during the tournament. Soroka's swift playmaking skills and blazing speed make him a nuisance for opposing defenses on the flanks, while Nakazawa's poise in the midfield and ability to find the open man has provided the U-17s with a creative midfield attack. Twins Michael and Gabriel Farfan, and Daniel Kelly and Jeremy Hall will also contribute to an impressive central attack for the U.S.
A fixture for the U.S. in the defensive midfielder position is Nikolas Besagno, who was the first overall pick in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft by Real Salt Lake this past January. Besagno joined the U-17 Residency Program in April 2004 and quickly made his way into the starting lineup as he impressed with tough tackles, smart decisions and a durable work rate.
While Kirk is back, the U.S. will once again head into a major competition this year minus a key player as central defender Eric Lichaj was ruled unable to perform after suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee just this past month. Lichaj's experience and composure in the back will be missed and force Hackworth to rearrange his back four.
"Losing Eric Lichaj is a tough pill to swallow," said Hackworth. "But we have been able to use a number of different lineups on the backline and are confident that the collection of starters and reserves included in the roster will be able to step up and fill the defensive void."
Ofori Sarkodie, an intelligent and rugged central defender who has the range to also be dangerous in the attack, will need to use his leadership skills to make sure his fellow defenders – Kevin Alston, Amaechi Igwe, Blake Wagner and Neven Subotic – can keep a tight backline.
Bryant Rueckner is the first-choice goalkeeper for the U-17s as he has an impressive 1.09 goals against average, including three shutouts, while compiling a 13-9-6 record during the past two years. Diego Restrepo and Perk will serve as his capable backups.
The U.S. is the only country that has taken part in all ten of the previous world championships at this age group. The best finish ever for the U.S. came in New Zealand '99, when the U-17s, led by Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey and Oguchi Onyewu, advanced to the semifinals and eventually finished in fourth place.
The 16-team field is divided into four groups of four, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the quarterfinals. The 32-match tournament will take place in five venues across Peru, with games in Trujillo, Lima, Chiclayo, Piura and Iquitos. Iquitos, which is located in the northeastern province of the country on the banks of the Amazon River in the heart of the Peruvian jungle, was a last-minute venue addition. The fifth venue is quite a distance from the other four venues, which are all located along the Pacific Ocean, and is only reachable by river or air. The U.S. will only travel to Iquitos if they finish second in Group C, playing their quarterfinal match against the winner of Group D at the venue.
This is the 20th anniversary of the FIFA U-17 World Championship, with the first ever world championship for this age group (which started out a U-16 tournament) taking place in 1985 in front of huge crowds in China. A number of talented players have played in a U-17 World Championship, including Luis Figo, Alessandro Del Piero, Juan Veron, Francesco Totti and Ronaldinho. A total of 67 players that have taken part in a U-17 World Championship have gone on to represent their countries at the FIFA World Cup, with two playing in a final – Ronaldinho (Brazil) and Emmanuel Petit (France).
U.S. Under 17 Men's National Team Roster
FIFA Under-17 World Championship Peru 2005 September 16 – October 2
Goalkeepers (3): 20-Brian Perk (Pateadores), 18-Diego Restrepo (HC United), 1-Bryant Rueckner (PSG)
Defenders (5): 5-Ofori Sarkodie (Chicago Magic), 14-Neven Subotic (Manatee Magic), 13-Blake Wagner (HC United), 3-Kevin Alston (Potomac Cougars), 2-Amaechi Igwe (Santa Clara Sporting)
Midfielders (7): 16-Nikolas Besagno (Real Salt Lake), 12-Gabriel Farfan (Nomads), 19-Michael Farman (Nomads), 17-Jeremy Hall (HC United), 15-Daniel Kelly (TNFC), 8-Kyle Nakazawa (ISC Strikers), 11-Ryan Soroka (FC Delco)
Forwards (5): 4-Josmer Altidore (Boca Juniors), 10-David Arvizu (Pateadores), 7-Omar Gonzalez (Dallas Texans), 6-Quavas Kirk (LA Galaxy), 9-Preston Zimmerman (Crossfire Premier)