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FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 is scheduled to kick off on 6th October, with 24 countries from six confederations competing for one of the biggest honours in youth football.
In this segment, we take a look at USA U-17 team and guide you through their journey to the world cup - highlighting their strengths, tactics and key players.
Confederation: CONCACAF (North, Central America and Carribean zones)
Nicknames: Team USA, The Stars and Stripes, The Yanks
Style of play: Traditional 4-4-2, counter-attacking
Coach: John Hackworth
PAST RECORDS AND LAURELS
The most notable contribution by the U-17 United States team at the global level is the fourth-place finish in the 1999 edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The then skipper Landon Donovan ran the show for his country in New Zealand and was Team USA's top scorer at the tournament.
The USA narrowly missed a place in the final in 1999, losing to Australia on penalties in the semi-final before crumbling to a 0-2 defeat against Ghana in the third-place playoff.
The Stars and Stripes have been regular participants at U-17 World cup tournaments, missing out on qualification just once - in 2013. They have also managed quarter-final appearances on four occasions, most recently at Peru in 2005.
Last time out in 2015, the team failed to make it out of their group which consisted of eventual winners Nigeria, hosts Chile and Croatia. They crashed out without a win, managing just a solitary point from the three group games.
ROAD TO U-17 WORLD CUP
Team USA qualified for the U-17 World Cup as the runners-up of CONCACAF U-17 Championship 2017. The catch here is that the USA had an undefeated run until the final, in which they faced off against Mexico for the second time in the tournament.
It is also telling that the eventual finalists played a 4-3 goal scoring encounter in their group stage game, which the USA edged to victory. The win was the USA U-17 side’s first victory against their arch-rivals in the history of the continental finals and put an end to Mexico’s 25-game unbeaten streak in the tournament. After defeating Mexico and coming out of the group stage as group toppers, USA continued to deliver fine performances in the classification stage before crumbling to a heart-breaking defeat on penalties at the hands of El Tri in the final.
The Stars and Stripes will have the perfect opportunity to make amends for the heartbreak come October, at the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
TEAM COACH AND HIS IDEOLOGY
Team USA coach John Hackworth is a former Major League Soccer coach. He has taken charge of the league's Eastern Conference member Philadelphia Union from 2012 to 2014 after serving as assistant manager until 2012.
This is also not Hackworth's first stint as the head coach of the U-17 USA team. He was the coach of the side during the 2005 and 2007 editions of the World Cup as well but the failure to get past quarter-final stage continued to loom over the side.
As part of the preparation ahead of the big sporting event in October, the team travelled to Buenos Aires and Rosario, Argentina to take part in the International festival 2017.
When it comes to tactics, Hackworth is a coach who prefers the traditional 4-4-2, albeit more counter-attacking. He likes his central midfielders to sit slightly deep and dictate the game.
The team will often try to get the ball out towards wide men who are expected to whip crosses into the box. The main target for these crosses usually is talented striker Josh Sargent, who acts as the focal point for the team's attacking moves with help from striking partner Ayo Akinola.
THE DANGER MAN - PLAYER TO LOOK OUT FOR
GOALKEEPERS: Alex Budnik (Sockers FC), Carlos Joaquim Dos Santos (S.L. Benfica), Justin Garces (Atlanta United FC)
DEFENDERS: Sergiño Dest (Ajax), Christopher Gloster (New York Red Bulls), Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting Kansas City), James Sands (New York City FC), Tyler Shaver (New York City FC), Akil Watts (Portland Timbers)
MIDFIELDERS: George Acosta (North Carolina FC), Taylor Booth (Real Salt Lake), Christopher Durkin (D.C. United), Blaine Ferri (Solar Soccer Club), Chris Goslin (Atlanta United FC), Indiana Vassilev (IMG Academy; Savannah, Ga.)
FORWARDS: Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC), Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United FC), Jacobo Reyes (C.F. Monterrey), Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas), Joshua Sargent (St. Louis), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain F.C)
Follow Nisanth V Easwar on Twitter - @niktheblue94