"Wilmer is going to be a great addition to all of our player development initiatives," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. "He has played at the highest level of the sport and will bring a unique perspective to our programs. He has been very involved in our youth national teams across the past year, and has done the work at the grassroots since relocating to the United States that make him an ideal candidate."
Since immigrating to the United States with his family, Cabrera played for the USL's Long Island Rough Riders and coached youth teams at BW Gottschee (Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League) and the Huntington Boys Club (Long Island Junior Soccer League).
Cabrera has also been assistant coach of Suffolk Community College men's team and serves as MLS manager of fan development, working on Hispanic grassroots and youth programs.
Cabrera replaces John Hackworth, who coached the U-17s at the 2007 and 2005 U-17 World Cups. Hackworth is now assistant U.S. national team coach under head coach Bob Bradley and U.S. Soccer Development Academy Director.
Cabrera acquired a USSF A Coaching License in 2005 and has been a member of the U.S. Under-18 men's national team staff since January of 2007, serving as an assistant coach under Bob Jenkins.
"I know the system, and I know our youth programs very well," said Cabrera. "And this is a beautiful challenge for me and a great responsibility. I am very much looking forward to contributing to the developmental environment that is growing in the United States for youth players."
Cabrera, 40, was a member of Colombia's national team at the 1990 and 1998 World Cup, in which he played three games. He missed the 1994 World Cup because of injury. He earned 48 caps during his nine years with the national team.
He also represented Colombia at two FIFA U-20 World Cups (1985 in the Soviet Union and 1987 in Chile), starting all three games for the team in the 1987 tournament after being selected to the 1985 roster at age 17.
Cabrera began his professional career at Santa Fe de Bogatá in Colombia in 1985 at age 17. He went on to play professionally for 18 years in Colombia, Argentina and Costa Rica, highlighted by eight years with Colombia's América de Cali. He was also a founding member of Chico Futbol Club in the mid-1990s, serving as the team's first coach and helping guide them to promotion to the first division after just two years.
In 2003, Cabrera moved to the United States and played for two years with the United Soccer League's Long Island Rough Riders. He also worked in an administrative role at Major League Soccer, as Manager of Fan Development. In that role, he served as the spokesperson for MLS Futbolito and Verano MLS, two programs aimed at grassroots development of soccer in the United States.
Cabrera played against the United States in four official games, appearing as a sub on April 22, 1990, and July 31, 1992, both 1-0 victories for Colombia.
He started and played the full 90 minutes against the U.S. in a 0-0 draw on June 25, 1995 and in a 4-1 win for Colombia at the 1995 Copa America that denied the U.S. a third-place finish.
Rongen, in addition to coaching the U-20s at the 2007 World Cup in Canada, was also at the helm in the 2003 tournament where the U.S. finished in fifth place.
Rongen will begin the two-year cycle by leading an Under-18 team in the Limoges Tournament in France in late October. The 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup will be held in Egypt.
"Having Thomas back on board and having Wilmer join our youth national team staff is great for our program," said Bradley. "It is very clear in the appointments that have been made this week that the focus within our youth national teams is about player development. It is important for us moving forward to continue to connect all of our programs, from the Development Academy through to the U.S. national team."