Prodigy Christian Pulisic leads U.S. U-17 qualifying campaign

Earlier this month, 16-year-old Pennsylvanian Christian Pulisic, who had been training with Borussia Dortmund's youth team, ended up in an 11-v-11 with the first team because, Coach Juergen Klopp explained, it just worked out they needed someone at his position to fill out the scrimmage. Pulisic, who on Friday starts a quest to help the USA qualify for the 2015 U-17 World Cup, made a good impression on Klopp.

“In an intense training situation in tight spaces,” said Klopp, who has guided Dortmund to two Bundesliga titles and a Champions League runner-up finish, “he did not play negatively. That’s a true mark of quality.”

Starting this Friday, when Coach Richie Williams’ U.S. U-17 team begins its qualifying campaign for the World Cup, Pulisic is expected to lead the Americans. The attacking midfielder who strikes with both feet notched 17 goals and seven assists for the U.S. U-17s in 2014.

Pulisic gave notice at the start of the current U-17 cycle when in December of 2013 when he was named MVP of the Nike International Friendlies at which the USA beat Brazil, 4-1, and England, 5-1.

By then, the son of parents who both played collegiate ball at George Mason, had already trained at Barcelona, Chelsea and Porto. Lethal finishing and creative playmaking -- and the early international attention -- recalls Landon Donovan’s stint with the U-17s that ended up with a fourth-place finish at the 1999 U-17 World Cup, where Donovan won the Golden Ball.

Pulisic’s father, Mark, played eight years of indoor ball after starring at GMU and coached Christian at the PA Classics. At age 13, after playing against Tab Ramos’ NJSA 04, Ramos recommended Christian to then-U.S. U-14 national team coach Manny Schellscheidt. Pulisic attended U.S. U-17 residency in Bradenton, Calif., and was able to sign with Borussia Dortmund by getting a European Union passport, thanks to his grandfather, a Croatia native. (EU laws override FIFA's ban on the transfer of minors.)

Klopp did warn that Pulisic’s development -- his quest to make it as Bundesliga player -- will require patience. But in the next couple of weeks he'll have a chance to shine among peers.

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