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Ex-United great Williams named US U-17 head coach

Former US national team midfielder and D.C. United great Richie Williams has been named the new head coach of the US Under-17 national team, US Soccer announced on Tuesday.

Williams, who also spent five years as the top assistant for the New York Red Bulls, will take over US Soccer’s U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla., following the recent departure of Wilmer Cabrera.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to coach the US U-17 men's national team and be with the players full-time in the Residency Program," Williams said in a press release. "It is a great responsibility as the players kick off the cycle toward the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup, but it is also an excellent platform for introducing them in more detail to the philosophies and style of play that are being integrated throughout the national team programs."

That philosophy and style of play is an emphasis on technique and possession, implemented from the ground up across all US soccer platforms. Williams has already been a part of that adjustment, having most recently been head coach of the US U-18s and Mid-Atlantic Region technical advisor for the US Soccer Development Academy. He’ll be leaving both jobs for the U-17 role.

"Richie is an ideal candidate to guide the development of our young national team players while also preparing the team during the next year to qualify for the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup," USSF president Sunil Gulati said in a statement. "His experience as a player and coach at the highest levels will allow him to continue to provide a professional environment for the players in our U-17 Residency Program."

The current crop of U-17s were all born in 1996 or later, making them the first generation that’s the same age as MLS. According to the USSF, 26 of the 31 players in the Residency program come from US Soccer Development Academy clubs, including 13 from MLS Academies.

The U-17 program has produced stars such as Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, to name just three, and has been a fixture of US Soccer since 1999. That inaugural class remains the most successful, producing Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu and Kyle Beckerman as well as a run to the semifinals of the U-17 World Cup.

Williams represented the US national team 20 times from 1998 through 2002, including during the run to the 1999 Confederations Cup semifinals. He was also a three-time MLS Cup champion with D.C. United.