The young Americans open their World Cup journey with a daunting task against tournament favorite Spain.
The senior squad holds the two most recent European championship crowns and is the defending World Cup champion. Tuesday, Spain repeated as European Under-21 champion. The nation's U-20 national team enters the upcoming FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey as one of the favorites to be the last team standing.
None of that seems to faze U.S. U-20 national team coach Tab Ramos, though.
Ramos' young Americans open the World Cup in Istanbul against the vaunted Spaniards on Friday, kicking off a brutal stretch of Group A games that also includes dates against France and Ghana.
"We're very excited that we're in Group A with some of the best teams in the world and some legitimate contenders to win the World Cup," Ramos said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "I think that's a great thing for us and for our players."
"In terms of how far I think this team can go, I don't know to be honest with you. I like the players that we have, I like the talent that we have on our team. Obviously we play Spain in the first game and Spain happens to be the favorite to win the World Cup. At the same time, I see that as a good challenge for us that maybe tells us whether we're close or whether we're really far away. I do know that if somehow we can survive in our group and get to the next stage, that coming out of this group we'd probably be able to beat anybody."
Spain's methods have been time tested and spread across all age groups, but that is something that gives Ramos and any other potential opponent a relatively accurate blueprint of what to expect. That hardly means executing a successful game plan against Spain is an easy task, but knowing what is in store on the opposing side of the field certainly helps in preparation.
"The one thing about Spain is that they play the same way in all their age groups," Ramos said. "We just saw the U-21 team win the European championship, playing the same way as the first team. We've gotten to know this particular U-20 team very well in the way that they play. They also play in a very similar way to their first team. That's something that is very difficult for us and that we're going to have to deal with."
Ramos took comfort in the USA senior side's triumph over Spain in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, and he plans on using the historic 2-0 semifinal win as motivation prior to Friday's clash, in hopes of sparking another upset in a major competition.
"The U.S. vs. Spain game four years ago, it's a game we'd like to go back to," Ramos said. "We're probably going to show a little of the video of that on Thursday to the players to make sure that they remember that obviously our first team upset Spain, and there's no reason we couldn't do the same on Friday."