New U-17 cycle begins on cautionary note

In past years, the Nike International Friendlies, the annual year-end tournament for the age group that will ultimately aim for the U-17 World Cup, have produced impressive wins for the USA. There were 3-1 and 4-1 wins over Brazil to clinch the titles in 2011 and 2013 only for the U-17 group to flame out two years later.

On that cautionary note, a new cycle begins Wednesday with the start of 12th edition of the Nike International Friendlies in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. This year's opponents will be the Brazil, England and the Netherlands. All four teams will feature players born in 2000, currently U-15s. The goal is to qualify for the 2017 U-17 World Cup that will be hosted by India.

The USA exited in the first round of the 2015 U-17 World Cup in Chile under Coach Richie Williams two years after it failed to qualify for the finals. (He had taken over in 2012 after Wilmer Cabrera departed as U-17 coach.) U.S. U-15 coach John Hackworth is in charge of the Nike Friendlies' squad.

The 21 players Hackworth has called up include Tim Weah, son of former Liberian great George Weah. Tim Weah is on the U-17 team at Paris St. Germain. More than a decade earlier, Tim Weah's brother, George Weah Jr., played for the U.S. U-20s but has since spent his career bouncing around from one small club to another.

U.S. under-15 boys national team roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Alexander Budnik (Sockers FC), Carlos Dos Santos (Philadelphia Union academy), Justin Garces (Kendall FC).
DEFENDERS (7): Jake Arteaga (LA Galaxy academy), Kelee Cornfield-Saunders (LA Galaxy academy), Christopher Durkin (D.C. United academy), Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting KC academy), Rayshaun McGann (Philadelphia Union academy), Bryan Perez (LA Premier FC), Chandler Vaughn (D.C. United academy).
MIDFIELDERS (7): George Acosta (Weston FC), Andrew Carleton (Georgia United), Blaine Ferri (Solar), Christopher Goslin (Georgia United), James Sands (New York SC), Arturo Vasquez (FC Golden State), Adrian Villegas (Portland Timbers academy).
FORWARDS (4): Ayomide Akinola (Toronto FC academy), Joshua Sargent (Scott Gallagher MO), Tonny Temple (IMG Academy), Tim Weah (Paris St. Germain/FRA).

2015 Nike International Friendlies:
Wednesday, Dec. 2
Netherlands vs. Brazil, 3 p.m. ET
USA vs. England, 6 p.m. ET
Friday, Dec. 4
Brazil vs. England, 3 p.m. ET
USA vs. Netherlands, 6 p.m. ET
Sunday, Dec. 6
England vs. Netherlands, 3 p.m. ET
USA vs. Brazil, 6 p.m. ET
(U.S. games will be streamed live on ussoccer.com and U.S. Soccer's YouTube page.)

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