A high-stakes clash: USA-England at the U-17 World Cup

Saturday’s U-17 World Cup quarterfinal between England and USA has historical implications for both teams, while the young Americans have a chance to give U.S. fans some “hope” in the wake of the USA failure to reach the 2018 World Cup.

“There’s more a responsibility now,” said U.S. coach John Hackworth when asked but the senior team’s qualifying failure. “That’s the best way to put it. We are at the moment the team that is playing for something really important. We trying to give our country hope.

The USA is aiming to reach the semifinals for the second in the history of the biennial tournament that launched in 1985. The U.S. team that finished fourth at the 1999 U-17 World Cup included future senior World Cup players Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu, Bobby Convey and Kyle Beckerman. A win over England would also mark the first time the USA won four games at a U-17 World Cup.

For England, victory would send it to the semifinals of the U-17 World Cup for the first time. It has made three previous appearances: 2007 (quarterfinals), 2001 (round of 16) and 2015 (first round).

The English youth national team program has been a roll lately. Last summer, England won its first world championship at the U-20 World Cup, won the U-19 Toulon Tournament, won the U-19 European Championship and reached the semifinals of the U-21 European Championship. The U-17s qualified by winning 11 straight games before falling to Spain on penalty kicks in the European U-17 Championship.

The USA and England are the only nations to reach the quarterfinals of both the 2017 U-17 World Cup and the 2017 U-20 World Cup. (The USA fell to eventual runner-up Venezuela in the U-20 quarters.)

How strong is England?
Max Eberl, director of Bundesliga club Borussia Monchengladbach, told the Times of London: "We follow every English national game -- under-16, under-17 and so on -- and we know every top player in England. That age group [born in] 2000 in England, you could take every player. It's unbelievable. They will perhaps win the Under-17 World Cup in India.”

Road to the quarterfinal
USA 3 India 0
USA 1 Ghana 0
Colombia 3 USA 1
USA 5 Paraguay 0
————————————
England 4 Chile 0
England 3 Mexico 2
England 4 Iraq 0
England 0 Japan 0 (PKs: 5-3)

Coach Hackworth on England
“We both play a similar style so it should be a really exciting and challenging game for both of us. It should be fun. … We think they’re fantastic but we think we’re not bad either.”

England coach Steve Cooper on the USA
"They're a good team with some good players. They're athletic as well as being technically gifted. They play with a clear identity so we know we're coming up against a tough opposition but you wouldn't expect any different in a quarterfinal of a World Cup.”

USA stars
Tim Weah scored a hat trick against Paraguay. Andrew Carleton, who has two goals and three assists, has been the USA’s leading playmaker. U-20 World Cup Silver Ball winner Josh Sargent scored his second goal of the tournament in the Paraguay win and assisted. Chris Durkin, a key figure in the defense that looked shaky only against Colombia, also sparked attacks and scored in the India win.

USA missing
Midfielder Chris Goslin, who started all four games, is serving a yellow-card suspension on Saturday.

England stars
The young Lions have conceded only two goals, both against Mexico. Goalkeeper Curtis Anderson saved Japan’s third spot kick in the round of 16 shootout and then scored one himself. Angel Gomes has seen only two minutes of Premier League action but was Manchester United’s youngest debutant in more than half a century. In India, he scored against Chile and scored and assisted against Iraq.

England missing
Jadon Sancho, England’s top player, left the squad after group play to join Borussia Dortmund, which had signed him from Manchester City in August for a reported transfer fee of $10 million. Instead of playing in England’s round of 16 win over Japan, Sancho played for BVB a 2-0 win in the UEFA Youth League, scoring the second goal. Sancho, who scored three goals and assisted twice for England in group play, may get his Bundesliga debut on Saturday against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Game time:
10:30 am ET, Saturday, Oct. 21 (FoxSports2, Telemundo)

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