USA aims for ninth straight U-20 Women's World Cup appearance

The USA's quest to qualify for every U-20 Women's World Cup since the biennial tournament's inception in 2002 begins on Friday, when Coach Jitka Klimkova's team faces Nicaragua (5:30 pm ET, Univision Deportes) at the 2018 Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship in Trinidad & Tobago.

2004 -- Canada (USA runner-up). 2006 -- USA. 2008 -- Canada (USA runner-up). 2010 -- USA. 2012 -- USA. 2014 -- USA. 2016 -- USA.

The U-20 women, the only U.S. youth national team to have qualified for every World Cup at their age group, also faces Jamaica (Sunday, Jan. 21, 6:30 pm, UDN) and Mexico (Tuesday, Jan. 23, 3 pm, UDN) in Group B, from which the top two finishers advance to the semifinals, whose winners along with the victor of the third-place game earn berths to the 2018 U-20 Women’s World Cup in France (Aug. 5-24).

Group A consists of Trinidad & Tobago, Canada, Costa Rica and Haiti.

Costa Rica, which reached the finals in 2010 and 2014, is the only Concacaf nation besides the USA (8), Canada (7) and Mexico (7) to have appeared in a U-20 Women's World Cup.

Meet Coach Jitka Klimkova -- 2016 Soccer America Interview:
'Let players find solutions by themselves'

So far, in addition to host France (the 2016 U-20 World Cup runner-up), England, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, China, Japan, defending champion North Korea and New Zealand have booked their tickets to the ninth Women's U-20 World Cup.

The U.S. U-20s have an exceptional record of graduating players to the full national team. For example, fifteen members of the U.S. squad that won the 2015 Women’s World Cup had U-20 World Cup experience:

Morgan Brian (2012 U-20 World Cup), Julie Ertz (nee Johnston) (2012), Sydney Leroux (*2004, 2008, 2010), Meghan Klingenberg (2008), Alex Morgan (2008), Alyssa Naeher (2008), Amy Rodriguez (2004, 2006), Tobin Heath (2006), Lauren Holiday (2006), Kelley O’Hara (2006), Ashlyn Harris (2002, 2004), Megan Rapinoe (2004), Becky Sauerbrunn (2004), Lori Chalupny (2002), Heather O’Reilly (2002).
* Leroux played for Canada at age 14 at the 2004 U-20 World Cup before switching to the USA.

KLIMKOVA ON HER SQUAD: “We have a really good balance on the roster. We have good decision-makers, creative players, technical and strong players, so we can choose a lineup to be successful against any particular opponent. We focused a lot on team-building during this year’s camps and during the sessions and games, you can see that we have some good leaders. …

“This is one of the most competitive groups we’ve had, competitive both for positions and in how much they want to win. There is not a big gap between our starters and our finishers. We want our starters to start strong and the players coming off the bench to finish even stronger. It’s made for some great competition in camp.”

GOALKEEPERS (2): Laurel Ivory (Virginia; Surfside, Fla.), Amanda McGlynn (Virginia Tech; Jacksonville, Fla.).
DEFENDERS (7): Tierna Davidson (Stanford; Menlo Park, Calif.), Naomi Girma (California Thorns FC; San Jose, Calif.), Tara McKeown (USC; Mission Viejo, Calif.), Zoe Morse (Virginia; East Lansing, Mich.), Kiara Pickett (Stanford; Santa Barbara, Calif.), Isabel Rodriguez (Ohio State; Canton, Mich.), Karina Rodriguez (UCLA; Torrance, Calif.).
MIDFIELDERS (5): Samantha Coffey (Boston College; Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.), Savannah DeMelo (USC; Bellflower, Calif.), Jaelin Howell (Real Colorado; Windsor, Colo.), Brianna Pinto (NTH Tophat; Durham, N.C.), Viviana Villacorta (UCLA; Lawndale, Calif.).
FORWARDS (6): Abigail Kim (California; Vashon, Wash.), Civana Kuhlmann (Stanford; Littleton, Colo.), Ashley Sanchez (UCLA; Monrovia, Calif.), Sophia Smith (Real Colorado; Windsor, Colo.), Taryn Torres (Virginia; Frisco, Texas), Kelsey Turnbow (Santa Clara; Scottsdale, Ariz.).

ALL EIGHT ROSTERS: Heavy U.S. flavor at Concacaf Under-20 Women's Championship
(The USA's seven rivals all have at least one American-based player from colleges or club teams.)

Year U.S. finish (U.S. coach)
2002 Champion (Tracey Leone)
2004 Third place (Mark Krikorian)
2006 Fourth Place (Tim Schulz)
2008 Champion (Tony DiCicco)
2010 Quarterfinals (Jill Ellis)
2012 Champion (Steve Swanson)
2014 Quarterfinals (Michelle French)
2016 Fourth Place (Michelle French)

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