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Under-17 World Cup Preview
by Paul Kennedy, August 17th, 2007 7AM

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[VIDEO] The U.S. U-17 boys national team looks to advance to the knockout phase of the Under-17 World Cup for the third straight time when it competes at the 2007 Under-17 World Cup that begins Saturday in South Korea.

The USA, which opens play against Tajikistan in Changwon on Monday (TV: ESPNU, live, 6:45 am ET), is the only country to have qualified for every U-17 world championship since FIFA's youngest boys championship was launched as a U-16 championship in 1985.

The USA has advanced out of its group three of four times since the U-17 residency program began in 1999. It finished fourth in 1999 with a team that featured future World Cup players Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu and Bobby Convey. The 2003 team featuring Freddy Adu also went out in the quarterfinals. The 2005 team won its group before falling to the Netherlands, 2-0, in the quarterfinals. (The 2001 team led by Eddie Johnson lost all three games in a group that included eventual champion France and runner-up Nigeria.)

The 2007 U-17 World Cup marks the first time that 24 team are entered in the tournament. Sixteen teams will advance to the knockout phase, necessitating an extra round.

All but two of the 21 players on Coach John Hackworth's U.S. team are from the 40 available players in U.S. Soccer's U-17 residency program based in Bradenton, Fla.

(Click here for video on the 21 players.)

Defender Tommy Meyer, a former Bradenton resident, and forward Daniel Cruz are not currently part of residency. Cruz didn't take up soccer until his freshman year of high school in Arizona after playing football and roller hockey.

Key players on the team include midfielder Jared Jeffrey, one of three players from the Dallas Texans, winger Alex Nimo, who spent his youth in a Liberian refugee camp, forward Ellis McLoughlin, who leads the team with 14 international goals, and defender Mykell Bates, who is the captain.

Five players from the younger 1991 age group -- Bryan Dominguez, Gregory Garza, Abdusalam Ibrahim, Zac MacMath and Kofi Sarkodie -- earned a spot on the final roster.

The U.S. team arrived in South Korea on Tuesday. After playing Tajikistan, the USA faces Tunisia and Belgium in Group E play. On paper, it is a favorable draw, giving the Americans a chance of reaching the knockout phase for the sixth time in 12 appearances in the finals.

Click here for video on the keys to the team's success.)

U.S. ROSTER
GOALKEEPERS

Larry Jackson DeAnza Force
Josh Lambo Chicago Magic
Zac MacMath Clearwater Chargers
DEFENDERS
Mykell Bates River City Clash
Chris Klute Dallas Texans
Tommy Meyer Scott Gallagher
Kofi Sarkodie Ohio FC Mutiny
Brek Shea Texans FC
Kirk Urso Chicago Sockers
Brandon Zimmerman Crossfire Premier
Sheanon Williams FC Greater Boston Bolts
MIDFIELDERS
Gregory Garza Dallas Texans
Jared Jeffrey Dallas Texans
Brendan King Chicago Magic
Alex Nimo FC Portland Academy
Daniel Wenzel FC United
FORWARDS
Daniel Cruz Sereno SC
Bryan Dominguez Concorde Fire
Abdusalam Ibrahim FC Dallas
Ellis McLoughlin Crossfire Premier
Billy Schuler Matchfit Acad.

U.S. SCHEDULE
Aug. 20 Tajikistan in Changwon (ESPNU, live, 6:45 am ET)
Aug. 23 Tunisia in Changwon (ESPN2/ESPNU, 3:45 am ET)
Aug. 26 Belgium in Cheonan (ESPNU, 2:45 am ET)

U.S. FINISHES
1985 11th
1987 12th
1989 9th
1991 5th
1993 7th
1995 15th
1997 11th
1999 4th
2001 15th
2003 5th
2005 5th

TEAMS
Group A
Costa Rica
South Korea
Peru
Togo
Group B
New Zealand
Brazil ('97, '99 and '03 champion)
England
North Korea
Group C
Spain
Argentina
Honduras
Syria
Group D
France ('01 champion)
Japan
Nigeria ('93 champion)
Haiti
Group E
USA
Tunisia
Belgium
Tajikistan
Group F
Ghana
Germany
Colombia
Trinidad & Tobago



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