The USA may be a world power in women’s soccer, but its U-17 girls program has struggled on the world stage.
After finishing runner-up at the inaugural U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2008, the USA failed to qualify in 2010, exited in the first round of the 2012 World Cup -- albeit without losing a game -- and failed to qualify in 2014.
The USA’s qualifying campaign to reach the 2016 U-17 Women’s World Cup begins on Friday when it faces Jamaica in the Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championship Grenada March 3-13.
Both times the USA failed to qualify, it fell in the semifinals in penalty shootouts in tournaments in which only the top two finishers qualified, because Concacaf nations hosted the World Cup – Trinidad & Tobago and Costa Rica getting automatic bids.
At this year’s qualifying tournament, the semifinal winners and the third-place game winner qualify for the 2016 U-17 Women's World Cup in Jordan Sept. 30-Oct. 21.
Coach B.J. Snow, who also coached the team that failed to qualify two years ago, has picked a young squad. Of the 20 players, three are 17 years old, 11 are 16, four are 15, and two are 14 (forward Jordan Canniff and defender Kennedy Wesley). Defender Kate Wiesner turned 15 last month.
“This is the youngest team we’ve ever taken to World Cup qualifying,” said U.S. Soccer Technical Director April Heinrichs.
Snow’s team does, however, have some impressively experienced players – a pair who played for the U.S. U-20s when they finished first at December's qualifying tournament for the 2016 U-20 World Cup: defender Kiara Pickett and forward Ashley Sanchez, who notched five assists and scored three goals, including the gamewinner in the USA's 1-0 final win over Canada.
“They’ve been in an environment that has replicated what we’re going to go through over the course of the next week and a half,” said Snow.
2016 Concacaf U-17 Women's Championship
USA Group B Schedule
USA vs. Jamaica 2:30 pm ET
USA vs. Mexico 2:30 pm ET
USA vs. Costa Rica noon ET
(TV: FOX Soccer Plus, FOX Soccer 2Go)
Games can be viewed free of charge on foxsoccer2go.com by entering the promo code “U17WNT” on the registration page. The promo code can be activated though March 13.
Photo courtesy U.S. Soccer
U.S. U-17 girls roster
GOALKEEPERS (2): 12-Hillary Beall (So Cal Blues; Laguna Beach, Calif.), 1-Laurel Ivory (Sunrise Sting; Surfside, Fla.).
DEFENDERS (7): 4-Naomi Girma (Central Valley Crossfire; San Jose, Calif.), 9-Kiara Pickett (Eagles SC; Santa Barbara, Calif.), 11-Izzy Rodriguez (Michigan Hawks; Canton, Mich.), 16-Karina Rodriguez (So Cal Blues; Torrance, Calif.), 6-Emily Smith (De Anza Force; Los Gatos, Calif.), 15-Kennedy Wesley (So Cal Blues; Rossmoor, Calif.), 19-Kate Wiesner (Slammers FC; Monrovia, Calif.).
MIDFIELDERS (5): 18-Jaelin Howell (Real Colorado; Windsor, Colo.), 8-Brianna Pinto (CASL; Durham, N.C.), 20-Frankie Tagliaferri (PDA; Colt Neck, N.J.), 2-Taryn Torres (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), 5-Sydney Zandi (Penn Fusion; West Chester, Pa.).
FORWARDS (6): 17-Jordan Canniff (Richmond United; California, Md.), 13-Rachel Jones (Tophat; Lawrenceville, Ga.), 14-Civana Kuhlmann (Colorado Rush; Littleton, Colo.), 10-Ashley Sanchez (So Cal Blues; Monrovia, Calif.), 3-Sophia Smith (Real Colorado; Windsor, Colo.), 7-Alexa Spaanstra (Michigan Hawks; Brighton, Mich.).
U.S. CONNECTIONS. The USA will face a Jamaica team that includes eight USA-based players and is coached by Real Colorado director Lorne Donaldson Mexico has nine U.S. players, Costa Rica has one, and host Grenada has three, including 10-year-old Texan Melania Fullerton, who plays for Solar Chelsea East Dallas.
"Melania is a powerhouse and leader on the field," said Solar Chelsea East Dallas coach Jaime Arnold. "She keeps coming and coming giving 110 percent every time she steps onto the pitch. With her speed and quick footwork she is able to stun her opponents but there's one thing she has that you cannot teach and that’s heart.”
Roster: U.S. U-18 boys head to Argentina
U.S. U-18 men's national team coach Omid Namazi has named a roster of 20 players (all 1999-born) for a March 7-17 training camp in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The roster includes eight returnees from Namazi's 36-player January camp in Bradenton, Florida.
This team's players are eligible for the U.S. U-20 squad that will play in the 2017 Concacaf U-20 Championship in Nicaragua for a berth at the 2017 U-20 World Cup in South Korea -- a tournament with a Jan. 1, 1997 cutoff date. The U-18s will play three games in Argentina.
USA '99 vs. San Lorenzo ‘99
USA '99 vs. Racing Club ‘99
USA '99 vs. Uruguay ‘00
U.S. U-18 (1999s) men's team
GOALKEEPERS (2): James Fetterly* (Texas Rush; The Woodlands, Texas), Eric Lopez* (LA Galaxy; Westminster, Calif.).
DEFENDERS (7): Jose Alfaro* (Monarcas Morelia/MEX; West Chicago, Ill.), Daniel Jones (New England Revolution; West Hartford, Conn.), Glademir Mendoza (RSL Arizona; Phoenix, Ariz.), Matthew Real* (Philadelphia Union; Drexel Hill, Pa.), Aedan Stanley (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; Columbia, Ill.), Angel Uribe (Club Tijuana/MEX; Tijuana, Mexico), Carson Vom Steeg* (Real So Cal; Santa Barbara, Calif.).
MIDFIELDERS (5): Raul Aguilera Jr. (Orlando City; Sanford, Fla.), Jonathan Gonzalez (Monterrey/MEX; Santa Rosa, Calif.), Andrew Paoli* (San Jose Earthquakes; San Jose, Calif.), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas; Lewisville, Texas), Nick Taitague (FC Richmond; Midlothian, Va.).
FORWARDS (6): Arda Bulut* (San Jose Earthquakes; Los Gatos, Calif.), Griffin Dorsey (Colorado Rush; Evergreen, Colo.), Nebiyou Perry (AIK Fotboll/SWE; New York, N.Y.), Justin Rennicks (New England Revolution; Boston, Mass.), Kei Tomozawa* (Seattle Sounders; Bellevue, Wash.), Aristotle Zarris (RSL Arizona; Casa Grande, Ariz.).
* Took part in 36-player January U-18 camp.
U.S. U-16 boys go winless in England
In its first competition since Shaun Tsakiris was named U.S. U-16 boys national team coach in early January, the U.S. U-16s tied their England counterparts 1-1 and lost 4-2 during a nine-day camp in England last month
Gabe Segal equalized in the first game after the USA gave up an own goal. Segal and Marcelo Palomino scored in the loss. Tsakiris' team will take part in the 2016 Delle Nazioni April 20-May 1 in Gradisca, Italy -- a tournament the USA won in 2015.