CHICAGO - United States Under-20 Men's National Team head coach Sigi Schmid named his 21-man roster today that will represent the U.S. at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship from June 10-July 2 in Holland. The naming of the roster culminates almost two years of preparation for the U.S. players, which make up a talented and formidable mix of professional, college and high school standouts.
The team will travel to Holland on Wednesday, June 1, and conduct a week-and-a-half of training before the tournament. The team will spend their first four days in Mierlo, which is east of Eindhoven, before traveling to Enschede, their venue for the first round of play. During their stay in Mierlo, the team is scheduled to play a friendly game against the China Under-20 Men's National Team on Sunday, June 5.
Schmid selected a squad with a large amount of professional experience, as 10 players are currently playing in leagues in the U.S., Mexico, France and England. Seven of the professionals are playing in Major League Soccer, with five clubs being represented. The rest of the players on the squad are college standouts, except for forward Lee Nguyen who is the only high school player on the roster.
Of the players selected, 15 were part of the squad that took first place in Carson, Calif., in January to qualify for the USA's fifth consecutive World Youth Championship. Additionally, six of the players will bring world championship experience as they participated with the U.S. in the 2003 FIFA Under-17 World Championship in Finland, including Freddy Adu who is also the only player on the roster to already compete in a FIFA World Youth Championship.
The U.S. Under-20s were drawn into the difficult Group D with Argentina, Germany and Egypt. The U.S. will open the World Youth Championship against Argentina on June 11 at 5:30 p.m. local time/ 11:30 a.m. ET, before facing Germany on June 14 (8:30 p.m. local time/ 2:30 p.m. ET) and concluding group play on June 18 (1:30 p.m. local time/ 7:30 a.m. ET) against Egypt. The U.S. will play all three of their first round games at the 13,500-seat Arke Stadium in Enschede, Holland. Every U.S. match at the World Youth Championship can be followed live via ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.
In the United States, matches from the FIFA World Youth Championship will mostly be televised on Galavision, with selected games on Telefutura and Univision. Check ussoccer.com for the latest television schedule information.
"Over the past seven months these 21 players have demonstrated to me and the rest of the coaching staff that they belong on this roster and are ready to compete at the World Youth Championship," said Schmid, who took over the head coaching duties last October and has compiled a 10-1-0 international record. "We have a good mix of professionals and college players that I believe will provide us with the best chance to lead us 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."
Eddie Gaven is one of the most experienced players on the U.S. roster and will look to lead the team in Holland. The 18-year-old Gaven has already become one of the best players in MLS in just his third year in the MetroStars midfield, being named to the MLS Best XI and earning a starting position on the 2004 Eastern Conference All-Star Team. He is also one of only two players on the roster to have played at the highest level in the U.S., getting two caps with the U.S. Men's National Team. Playing with the Under-23s and full team has limited his time with the Under-20s, but he demonstrated his importance to the success of the team during the qualifying tournament as he notched a hat trick during their 6-1 opening match victory against Trinidad & Tobago.
Adu, one of the most dangerous players on the U.S. squad despite being the youngest at 16 years of age at the start of the tournament, will be making his second appearance in a FIFA World Youth Championship. The D.C. United midfielder was a member of the U.S. squad in 2003 that went on a remarkable run in the United Arab Emirates. After not playing in the first match of that tournament, Adu came on as a reserve against Germany and then started the following three matches, notching the assist to Bobby Convey after a 60-yard dribbling run against Argentina. Adu's time with the Under-20s this year has been limited as well due to club commitments, but in his last four games he has scored three goals, including two during the qualifying tournament.
The other five MLS players on the roster are just beginning their professional careers as Danny Szetela joined the Columbus Crew midway through the season last year and Chad Barrett (Chicago Fire), Hunter Freeman (Colorado Rapids), Will John (Chicago Fire) and Tim Ward (MetroStars) were recently drafted during the 2005 MLS SuperDraft in January. All five were part of the qualifying roster, with each player getting at least one start during the tournament and Barrett, John and Szetela each scoring a goal.
The remaining three professional players - goalkeeper Quentin Westberg, defender Jonathan Spector and forward Sammy Ochoa - are currently getting experience playing outside of the United States. Westberg, the first-choice 'keeper for the U.S. Under-20s, plays with ESTAC Troyes in France and leads the Under-20s with 14 international starts over the past two years, compiling a 7-3-4 record and allowing less than a goal a game.
Spector has yet to receive a single cap with the Under-20s, but only due to his incredible rise through the ranks with English Premier League club Manchester United. A former forward converted to a defender, Spector has seen time with United's first team at left back, which has kept him away from joining the team during domestic and international camps. Spector will no doubt be looked at to lead the U.S. backline against the formidable attacking styles of Argentina, Germany and Egypt.
Ochoa hasn't played an international match for the Under-20s either due to club commitments with Tecos of Mexico, but a solid performance with the team during a camp in February in Bradenton, Fla., was one of the factors that earned him a spot on the final roster.
Rounding out the rest of the 11 spots on the U.S. roster is a collection of the top college and high school players in the nation. The players were chosen out of a pool of 16 players that were in camp from May 7-28 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
The U.S. defense will be solidified by college standouts Patrick Ianni (UCLA), Marvell Wynne (UCLA) and Nathan Sturgis. Ianni and Wynne were both starters on a defense that allowed just one goal in three games during the qualifying tournament, while Sturgis has made been impressive over the past four months after not making the qualifying roster and is pushing for a starting position in Holland.
Greg Dalby (Notre Dame), Benny Feilhaber (UCLA), Sacha Kljestan (Seton Hall) were all part of a dangerous midfield that controlled the flow and sprung quick attacks forward during qualifying and will be looking to do the same in Holland. Brad Evans (UC-Irvine) made a late charge to make the roster and will also be looking to contribute in the midfield, or even possibly at forward or defensive back as his versatility will provide options for the U.S.. Up front, Jacob Peterson (Indiana) and high schooler Nguyen will provide the U.S. with speed, creativity and a knack of putting the ball in the back of the net.
The U.S. is solid in goal as back-up 'keepers Andrew Kartunen (Stanford) and Justin Hughes (UNC) have demonstrated their ability to play at this level. Kartunen helped the U.S. secure their second shutout of the tournament with three saves against Costa Rica in their final group match, while Hughes has snagged shutouts in both of the international friendlies he has started.
The U.S. qualified for Holland '05 with a first-place finish in Group A of the CONCACAF Under-20 qualifying tournament at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., in January. The U.S. opened the tournament with a 6-1 thrashing of Trinidad & Tobago before collecting identical 2-0 shutouts against Panama and Costa Rica. The impressive performance marked the first time the U.S. U-20s went undefeated and finished in sole possession of first place in CONCACAF qualifying.
The 24-team field at the FIFA World Youth Championship is divided into six groups of four, with the top two teams from each group and the top four (of six) third-place teams advancing to the Round of 16. The 52-match tournament will take place at six venues in Holland with games in Doetinchem, Emmen, Enschede, Kerkrade, Tilburg and Utrecht.
At the most recent World Youth Championship in UAE '03, the U.S. team won their group for the first time ever and made a remarkable run to the quarterfinals before losing 2-1 to Argentina in overtime. The best finish ever for the U.S. came in Saudi Arabia '89 when the U-20s, led by goalkeeper Kasey Keller, advanced to the semifinals before falling to Brazil in the Third Place match to finish in fourth place.