CHICAGO (Jan. 24, 2012) â€“ U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati has named former U.S. Menâ€™s National Team midfielder Richie Williams as head coach of the U.S. Under-17 Menâ€™s National Team. Williams will oversee U.S. Soccerâ€™s U-17 Residency Program from Bradenton, Fla., where the countryâ€™s elite players reside year-round and train in a professional environment.
â€œIâ€™m excited about the opportunity to coach the U.S. U-17 Menâ€™s National Team and be with the players full-time in the Residency Program,â€ Williams said. â€œIt is a great responsibility as the players kick off the cycle toward the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup, but it is also an excellent platform for introducing them in more detail to the philosophies and style of play that are being integrated throughout the National Team programs.â€
Williams had previously been the head coach of the U.S. Under-18 Menâ€™s National Team and the Mid-Atlantic Region technical advisor for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, but will leave both positions to immediately take over the U-17 Residency Program full-time in Bradenton.
â€œRichie is an ideal candidate to guide the development of our young National Team players while also preparing the team during the next year to qualify for the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup,â€ said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. â€œHis experience as a player and coach at the highest levels will allow him to continue to provide a professional environment for the players in our U-17 Residency Program.â€
Before joining U.S. Soccer, Williams spent five seasons with Major League Soccerâ€™s New York Red Bulls as an assistant coach. Williams began his coaching career in 2005 as an assistant coach for his alma mater, the University of Virginia.
As a player, Williams represented the U.S. Menâ€™s National Team for five years from 1998-2002, compiling 20 appearances and 11 starts. During his professional career, he won three MLS Cups with D.C. United in 1996, 1997 and 1999.
TheÂ current crop of U.S. Under-17 players were born mostly in 1996, with three born in 1997, making all the players eligible for the upcoming CONCACAF qualifying tournament and FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2013. The U.S. Soccer Development Academy continues to have a growing influence on the U-17s, with 26 of the 31-player Residency roster stemming from Academy clubs. U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors continue to scour the country in search of the best players that are age eligible for the upcoming events in 2013.
The U-17 Residency Program has been a fixture of U.S. Soccer since 1999. The U.S. players live on campus at IMG Academies in Bradenton, and train in the morning before attending classes at St. Stephens Episcopal School. Along with training daily, the players regularly use IMGâ€™s state-of-the-art strength-training facilities, and top-of-the-line soccer equipment and fields.
This setup has helped the U-17s with both individual player development and team development. Since its inception, more than 300 players have been through the Residency Program, and more than 100 of those players have moved on to MLS, or the professional leagues in Europe. A total of 24 players have also registered at least one cap with the full MNT.