The USA has appeared in the U-17 world championship a record 12 times but has won a second-round game only once. At this summer's U-17 World Cup, the Americans started meekly but managed second-round passage and face Germany on Thursday (6:45 am ET, live on ESPNU). In the previous five U.S. second-round appearances, the USA won only in 1999 with a team included Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey and Oguchi Onyewu.
Back in 1989 the USA, captained by current UCLA coach Jorge Salcedo and marshaled by Claudio Reyna, failed to reach the second round despite a historic 1-0 win over Brazil and a 2-2 tie with Australia.
This year, worse results yielded higher rewards.
Drawn into a group of U-17 World Cup newcomers, the USA won only one its games, 2-0 against a Belgium team that played a man-down for 54 minutes.
That was after losses to Tajikistan (4-3) and Tunisia (3-1).
Still, the USA finished in second place in Group E despite being outscored and winning only once.
Germany, on the other hand, scored 11 goals, conceded 5 and finished atop Group F, one point ahead of Ghana.
The Germans finished group play with a 5-0 thumping of Trinidad & Tobago while resting playmaker Toni Kroos.
The 17-year-old Kroos has already played in first-team friendlies with Bayern Munich, which is reserving the No. 10 for him. Kroos left Hansa Rostock's youth program a year ago to join Bayern.
"The boy has some unbelievable qualities," says Bayern goalkeeper Oliver Kahn. "He's the best player that I've seen come up through the youth ranks in years."
In a July, the USA won a friendly at Germany, 3-1, on goals by Greg Garza, Ellis McLoughlin and Alex Nimo.
The Germans played their first team in the first half, during which they gave up three goals, then made eleven halftime substitutions.
Germany opened its first-round play at the U-17 World Cup with a 3-3 tie against Colombia and beat Ghana, 3-2.
U.S. U-17 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP FINISHES