It's a long way from Bradenton, Fla., and the U.S. U-17 residency camp to Kano, Nigeria -- 36 hours, five airports, four plane rides and two bus rides -- but that's path Wilmer Cabrera's boys took to get to the 2009 Under-17 World Cup. Despite the absence of several highly touted players, the USA has one its deepest teams ever. Several players have been with the program since the beginning of the cycle, while others were late additions. Here's a look at five players to watch ...
EARL EDWARDS.Basketball, not soccer, was Edwards' first love and he started out as a defender, not a goalkeeper. Indeed, he was so dismayed with his play in goal that he almost quit at age 13. But he kept growing and growing -- he's now 6-foot-3 -- and advancing in the strong Nomads program. Now, he's arguably the top goalie prospect to ever come out of residency. It's produced more than a dozen national team players, but so far none has been a goalkeeper.
LUIS GIL.The youngest player in the U.S. lineup is also one of its most stylish players. He had a tremendous tournament in midfield during Concacaf qualifying. The Pateadores midfielder has been linked with English club Arsenal.
NICK PALODICHUK.A relatively late addition to the U-17 program, he scored two first-half goals in the 3-0 win over Honduras in the final CONCACAF U-17 qualifier and has seen his playing time increase in recent months. He could start on the right wing.
WILL PACKWOOD. The 6-foot-2 midfielder moved to Birmingham City from the FC Greater Boston Bolts two years ago and has already played for the reserves. He was brought into the U-17 team late in the process, taking part in a 10-day training camp at Chelsea's Cobham training ground. He's the only player who is not a full-time member of U.S. Soccer's Residency Program in Bradenton.
JACK MCINERNEY. The 5-foot-8 striker from Georgia's Cobb FC leads the U-17s with 16 goals in 26 games. McInerney scored five goals in three games at 2009 Concacaf U-17 qualifying in Tijuana. He had a 12-day tryout at Dutch club Vitesse in the summer.