Results aren’t the point—not exactly, anyway. The U-17 World Cup is about the future, about seeing and being seen. Every major club—and many minor ones, too—will have scouts at the games, hoping to find talent to fill their ranks. And the American team, paired in a group with India, Ghana (always freaking Ghana), and Colombia, will draw a fair number of those talent-seeking men. “The U-17 team, it’s not a secret that it’s one of the best American teams ever,” says Sebastian Dremmler, Bayern Munich’s head coach of international programs who oversees the German giant’s efforts in the U.S. “Of course, all European teams are looking with two eyes on the U.S. team to see what happens.”
The red, white, and blue might go out in the group stage or they might win the damn thing. (Head coach John Hackworth, heading to his fourth U-17 World Cup as either the head coach or an assistant, says anything less than a quarterfinal appearance would be a disappointment.) Regardless of where the Americans end up, the quality and depth of this U.S. team—Hackworth and his staff brought in more than 100 kids for training sessions during this two-year cycle, significantly more than in the past—is nearly unprecedented. The efforts put into youth development over the last decade are finally starting to produce results on a mass scale. This American squad is arguably closer to the best teams in the tournament in terms of raw talent than ever before —and it might be worse than every American team that comes after it.
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