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Help on the Way? A Good World Cup for U.S. U17 Team

October 21st, 2017 · No Comments · Brazil 2014, Fifa, Football, Landon Donovan, soccer, World Cup

Reaching the quarterfinals of a Fifa tournament is pretty much the definition of success, on the male side of the U.S. national soccer realm, and the Under 17 team just did it, at the U17 World Cup in India.

And what does it mean for the senior side to have the kids get to the last eight of a 24-team tournament?

We would like to be able to say “help is on the way”, but if we have learned anything from watching U17 teams play … it is nearly impossible to project what sort of player a kid will be three years hence. Never mind a decade into the future.

It could be that forwards Josh Sargent and Tim Weah will be with the men’s team sometime soon, or maybe goalkeeper Justin Garces. Or maybe none of them.

The U.S. was in Group A of the tournament and routed the hosts 3-0 and defeated Ghana 1-0 before falling 3-1 to Colombia.

The young Yanks fell to third in the group of three teams with six points — but was one of four third-place teams to make the last 16 of the 24-nation tournament, then hammered Group B leader Paraguay 5-0 in the round of 16.

The U.S. had a chance to match its best performance in the U17 tournament (the Landon Donovan-fueled semifinal effort in 1999), but fell 4-1 to England, which at the moment is strong up and down the international age-group ladder.

Tim Weah, son of former world player of the year George Weah, scored three goals in the rout of Paraguay, and Sargent also had three goals in India, though he spread them over three matches, including the quarterfinal with England.

Sargent also played in the U19 tournament this year, becoming only the second American male to play in two World Cups in a year, which is good news. The bad news is the other guy was Freddy Adu, perhaps the poster kid for players who never lived up to youthful promise.

On a macro level, the history of the U.S. program seems to suggest that good performances at the U17 level track with senior side success.

The Americans have played in the U17 quarters in 1991, 1993, 1999, 2003 and 2005.

The 1999 team, for example, contributed DaMarcus Beasley, Kyle Beckerman, Bobby Convey, Oguchi Onyewu and Donovan to the senior side.

Five former U17 World Cup veterans were on the pitch for the opening match of Brazil 2014 — Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard, Beckerman and Beasley.

Of course, that means six of the 11 starters did not come through a successful U17 World Cup background. As noted, it’s hard to project who makes the leap from 17-year-old standout to solid pro at ages 22, 23, 24 …

The U.S. only once has not qualified for the U17 tournament, in 2013 in the UAE, which is perhaps meaningful given that the age cohort would have been 21 years old during the recently failed World Cup qualifying campaign.

Josh Sargent to date has been the prize of the 2017 group, and he will join German side Werder Bremen at the new year, and will sign as a professional on his 18th birthday, in February.

Tim Weah has signed with Paris Saint-Germain, one of the clubs for which his father played.

Those two, along with Christian Pulisic (who played for the 2015 U17 side, which went out at the group stage), would seem to give the U.S. a chance at some home-made scoring punch when the next round of World Cup qualifying begins, ahead of Qatar 2022.



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