The USA has qualified for its seven straight youth world championship, having reached the quarterfinals in 2003 and again in 2007. The 2001 team included Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, who had both already made their senior national team debuts. The 2003 team included Bobby Convey, who had earned his first national team cap three years earlier. In 2007, Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley were already established professionals.
While nine of the 21 players on Thomas Rongen's U-20 team have professional experience, none has a reputation anywhere near that of the aforementioned players had when they played in the U-20 World Cup.
PLAYER, CLUB, APPEARANCES
Mikkel Diskerud, Staebak, 17 games
Jorge Flores, Chivas USA, 18 games
Brek Shea, FC Dallas, 18 games
Gerson Mayen, Chivas USA, 11 games
Kyle Davies, FC Dallas, 10 games
Danny Cruz, Chivas USA, 6 games
Gale Agbossoumonde, Miami FC, 6 games
Peri Marosevic, FC Dallas, 4 games
Bryan Arguez, Hertha Berlin, 1 game
Rongen's U-20s are surely the least fancied U.S. team to play in the world championships in a generation. A core of each U-20 team comes from the U-17 team two years earlier, but the 2007 U.S. U-17 team was the weakest since the residency program was established in Bradenton, Fla.
Five players -- Josh Lambo, Sheanon Williams, Jared Jeffrey, Shea and Cruz -- were part of the U.S. U-17 team that fell to Germany two years ago in the round of 16 in South Korea. Aaron Maund played for Trinidad & Tobago.
You probably have to go back to the 1993 tournament to find a similar U.S. team. Its performance in Australia should give Rongen's boys considerable hope. All Bobby Howe's team did was beat European champion Turkey by the score of 6-0 in its opening game -- with a hat trick from the never-to-heard-from-again Chris Faklaris -- and advance to the quarterfinals.
GOALKEEPERS: Sean Johnson (free agent), Josh Lambo (FC Dallas), Brian Perk (UCLA)
DEFENDERS: Gale Agbossoumonde (Miami FC), Kyle Davies (FC Dallas), Aaron Maund (Univ. of Notre Dame), Ike Opara (Wake Forest Univ.), Sheanon Williams (free agent)
MIDFIELDERS: Bryan Arguez (Hertha Berlin, GER), Danny Cruz (Houston Dynamo), Mikkel Diskerud (Staebak, NOR), Dilly Duka (free agent), Jorge Flores (Chivas USA), Jared Jeffrey (Club Brugge, BEL), Gerson Mayen (Chivas USA), Brian Ownby (Univ. of Virginia), Dillon Powers (Univ. of Notre Dame), Michael Stephens (UCLA)
FORWARDS: Peri Marosevic (FC Dallas), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Tony Taylor (free agent)