Raphael Wicky hired as U.S. Under-17 national team coach

The former FC Basel boss will take charge of a U.S. U-17 team favored to qualify and perform well at the Under-17 World Cup

U.S. Soccer has a plethora of youth national team coaching vacancies, but have managed to fill one of the more important positions with a head coach who boasts an impressive international resume.

Former Switzerland international and FC Basel manager Raphael Wicky has been hired as the new U.S. Under-17 men's national team head coach, U.S. Soccer announced on Friday.

Wicky will take charge of the U.S. U-17s as they prepare for the upcoming Concacaf Championships, which take place from May 1-16 in Bradenton, Florida. The United States will face Canada, Barbados and Guatemala in the group stage as the Americans attempt to qualify for the Under-17 World Cup, which takes place in October (a host nation still needs to be chosen after the tournament was pulled from original host Peru).

"It’s an exciting moment to join U.S. Soccer,” Wicky said. “As a coach, it excites me to be a part of the process and working to help players grow. I’ve been following U.S. Soccer for more than 10 years now, and with the growth of the sport in the United States, I’m really excited to come in and help develop the program.”

Wicky, 41, is no stranger to the United States. He is married to an American, and also finished his playing career with one season with defunct MLS club Chivas USA in 2008. He most recently served as manager of Swiss club FC Basel for the 2017-2018 season, guiding them through the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League a year ago, though they fell to Manchester City in the round of 16.

Wicky has extensive coaching experience in the youth ranks, having led the FC Basel U-18 team to the 2015 Swiss Cup, and the FC Basel U-19 team to a UEFA Youth League Round of 16 finish before coaching Basel's U-21 team to a first-place finish in the Swiss third division.

Wicky takes over a talented U.S. U-17 group that features Giovanni Reyna, who is currently training with Borussia Dortmund, Sporting Kansas City forward Gianluca Busio and Atlanta United defender George Bello.

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Though he hasn't worked with the U.S. youth national team setup before, Wicky is no stranger to the team he is inheriting, a factor in U.S. Soccer's decision to hire him.

"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," Nico Romeijn, U.S. Soccer Chief Sport Development Officer said of Wicky, who will move to Chicago as part of U.S. Soccer's new initiative to have all of its national team head coaches based in Chicago, where U.S. Soccer's headquarters are located.

U.S. Soccer still has other youth national team coaching vacancies to fill, most notably the U.S. Under-23 national team head coaching position. It is believed that the delay in filling those vacancies has been due, at least in part, to candidates being reluctant to move to Chicago.