The US Under-17 national team is looking to qualify for its 15th straight FIFA U-17 World Cup, and on Tuesday, head coach Richie Williams named his 20-man roster for this month's CONCACAF qualifying tournament.
Four players on the squad come directly from MLS academies, including a pair of New York Red Bulls Academy products who helped the club win the U.S. Soccer U-15/16 Finals Week title last July: midfielder Christopher Lema and goalkeeper Evan Louro.
Defender Justen Glad represents Real Salt Lake's Arizona academy, while midfielder Angel Heredia is a San Jose Earthquakes Academy product.
The team will be captained by defender Shaquell Moore who, along with fellow defender John Requejo Jr., played in all 24 international matches last year for the US U-17s. The leading scorer among the group is forward Rubio Rubin, who scored 11 goals in 22 international games in 2012.
Nineteen of the 20 players are members of the US U-17 Residency Program. The lone exception is midfielder Joel Soñora, who plays for Argentine super club Boca Juniors and is the son of former MLS defender and three-time All-Star Diego Soñora.
"We feel like we've got a great group of guys that have been able to gain great experience at an international level," Williams said in a statement from U.S. Soccer. "Now it comes down to the most important international tournament, and that's the qualifying. Obviously this is where it all counts. Either you move on to the World Cup or you come back home. We feel like they're ready and we'll go out there and do our best."
The US were drawn into Group C at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship along with Haiti and Guatemala. They open against the Haitians on Sunday, April 7, and face the Guatemalans four days later. Both matches will be at Estadio Rommel Fernández in Panama City.
Similarly to the U-20 Championship, all four semifinalists qualify for the U-17 World Cup, which will be held in the United Arab Emirates from Oct. 17 to Nov. 8.
Williams' squad will depart from Florida to Panama on Tuesday to prepare for the qualifying tournament.
US UNDER-17 NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER
GOALKEEPERS (2): Jeff Caldwell (North Carolina Fusion; Todd, N.C.), Evan Louro (New York Red Bulls; South River, N.J.)
DEFENDERS (6): Conor Donovan (NC Alliance; Fuquay Varina, N.C.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake AZ; Tucson, Ariz.), Shaquell Moore (Unattached; Powder Springs, Ga.), Tommy Redding (FC America Premier; Oviedo, Fla.), John Requejo Jr. (Real So Cal; Carpinteria, Calif.), Peter Schropp (Omaha FC; Omaha, Neb.)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Corey Baird (San Diego Surf; Escondido, Calif.), Junior Flores (Unattached; Manassas Park, Va.), Angel Heredia (San Jose Earthquakes; San Jose, Calif.), Christopher Lema (New York Red Bulls; Ridgefield, N.J.), Elijah Martin (Unattached; Fresno, Calif.), Joel Soñora (Boca Juniors; Buenos Aires, Argentina), Tyler Turner (South Central Premier; West Haven, Conn.)
FORWARDS (5): Mukwelle Akale (Minnesota Thunder; Minneapolis), Sebastian Elney (Boca United; Lake Worth, Fla.), Rubio Rubin (Unattached; Beaverton, Ore.), Ahinga Selemani (CSA Wolves; Ann Arbor, Mich.), Alan Winn (Solar Chelsea FC; Garland, Texas)