U.S. Soccer announced the hiring of Raphael Wicky as the new head coach of the US Under-17 men’s national team on Friday. Wicky is a former Swiss international with UEFA Champions League managerial experience as well as firsthand knowledge of North American soccer via an MLS stint with Chivas USA.
“We are very pleased with the hiring of Raphael, not only because of his impressive player background, but also as a youth and professional coach,” said Nico Romejin, U.S. Soccer Chief Sport Development Officer, in a federation release. “He impressed us with his knowledge of the player pool and his commitment to contribute to the overall youth national teams program to develop our next generation of national team players.”
Wicky, 41, carries an extensive resume. He earned 75 caps – including four at the 2006 World Cup – with the Swiss national team and featured for clubs like Werder Bremen and Hamburg over a 17-year playing career. After injury cut short his final stop, a brief period at Chivas USA, he then built his coaching chops in the youth systems at FC Basel and Servette FC in his homeland as well as the Swiss U-20 national team.
Success in Basel’s academy led to his ascension to the first team job in 2017, where he helped the club reach the Champions League round of 16.
“It's a great challenge and it's a great moment to come into this market,” Wicky said in a Q&A with ussoccer.com released on Friday. “I believe that there is enormous potential for soccer in the US. I've been following U.S. Soccer for more than 10 years now very closely since I played at Chivas USA and I've gotten to know the league. It's an exciting moment to come to U.S. Soccer, with the new [senior national team] head coach Gregg Berhalter, with Earnie Stewart as a new GM. As a coach, it excites me to be a part of the process and working to help players grow.”
Wicky joins a U-17 program poised on the cusp of a busy year. With a player pool increasingly populated by MLS Homegrown Players and academy products, the team begin their quest for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in early May, with a qualifying tournament the US will host at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida May 1-16. The US are slated to face Canada, Barbados and Guatemala in the first phase of that event, which will decide which four teams represent Concacaf at the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru later this year.
Wicky will gather his first U-17 squad for a training camp during the first week of April.