As the senior US men’s national team lurches towards the final stretch of World Cup qualifying, the US Under-17 side is in the final stretches of preparations for a World Cup of its own.
Here’s everything you need to know about the US U-17s and their upcoming participation in the 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in India.
One of the most interesting wrinkles to this year's US Under-17 squad is the number of players already signed to professional contracts.
Of the 21 players making the trip, seven are already professionals with six hailing from MLS (noted in bold below). That is by far a record over past US Under-17 squads that made World Cup trips. And several of the other players will be soon to follow, including Josh Sargent, who will join German club Werder Bremen when he turns 18.
Twelve of the 21 players on the roster have ties to MLS academies, including Homegrown signings Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting KC), James Sands (NYCFC), Chris Durkin (D.C. United) and Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United) who are expected to feature prominently at the World Cup.
USA U-17 World Cup Roster
|GK||21||Alex Budnik||Sockers FC|
|GK||12||C.J. Dos Santos||S.L. Benfica|
|GK||1||Justin Garces||Atlanta United|
|D||3||Christopher Gloster||NY Red Bulls|
|D||2||Jaylin Lindsey||Sporting KC|
|D||14||Akil Watts||Portland Timbers|
|M||15||George Acosta||North Carolina FC|
|M||16||Taylor Booth||Real Salt Lake|
|M||6||Chris Durkin||D.C. United|
|M||8||Blaine Ferri||Solar SC|
|M||20||Chris Goslin||Atlanta United|
|F||7||Ayo Akinola||Toronto FC|
|F||11||Andrew Carleton||Atlanta United|
|F||19||Jacobo Reyes||C.F. Monterrey|
|F||17||Bryan Reynolds||FC Dallas|
|F||9||Joshua Sargent||St. Louis Scott Gallagher|
|F||10||Timothy Weah||Paris Saint-Germain|
Manager John Hackworth will line up the US in a 4-3-3 formation, but an injury to center back Arturo Vasquez will force a change to the back line that helped the team advance from CONCACAF qualifying.
Hackworth has a couple of options: Leave most of the XI untouched and simply insert Tyler Shaver into the starting lineup for Vasquez. Or he can opt to move D.C. United’s Chris Durkin to center back from defensive midfield, where Atlanta United’s Chris Goslin could slot in as Durkin's replacement.
Josh Sargent will reprise his role leading the forward line, as he did earlier this year at the Under-20 World Cup. Andrew Carleton and Ayo Akinola will flank him, rounding out a forward line that has scored goals by the bucket loads.
Paris Saint-Germain's Timothy Weah, son of former world star George, will provide competition for Carleton and Akinola on the wings. If he doesn't break into the starting XI, he'll likely be the first sub off the bench.
While Durkin will protect the back line or form part of it, central midfielder is likely to feature George Acosta or Jacobo Reyes as the No. 10, while Blaine Ferri has seen a lot of minutes at the No. 8.
US Group A Schedule
- Matchday 1: USA vs. India (Friday, Oct. 6 @ 10:30 am ET / FS2)
- Matchday 2: USA vs. Ghana (Monday, Oct. 9 @ 7:30 am ET / FS2)
- Matchday 3: USA vs. Colombia (Thursday, Oct. 12 @ 10:30 am ET / FS2)
Keys to Success
Defending transitions: Whatever the outcome of Hackworth’s final lineup selection, the US could end up with a pair of defensive midfielders starting in central defense. And while Sands and Durkin (or Shaver) appear up to the task, the back line will be tested.
The open playing style employed by the US will invite the opposition's counterattack and managing those transitions will be crucial, especially against the likes of Ghana and Colombia, two teams that feature dangerous players going forward.
Sargent fit and in form: Whether he scores goals or not, Sargent will be an important player for the US. His link-up play with wingers Carleton and Akinola, as well as his ability to effectively pressure the opposition from his forward position will prove just as important as hitting the back of the net.
Starting strong: Playing the hosts India in the opening match is not a bad way to kick things off. No host nation is an easy out, but given India’s lack of a track record in global soccer, the US enter their opening match as heavy favorites.
Capitalizing on that opportunity is key. A big win that can boost the goal differential and get the team’s attack revved up would go a long way toward setting the tone for the rest of the tournament.