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U.S. U-17 Men's National Team focuses on World Championship Opener Saturday

U.S. Under-17 MNT Notes
Chiclayo, Peru
Sept. 16, 2005

COUNTDOWN TO NORTH KOREA: The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team conducted their final training session Friday afternoon at Estadio Elias Aguirre Romero as they are less than 24 hours away from their opening match of the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship against North Korea in Group C play. Kickoff for the match is at 12:45 p.m. CT in Chiclayo and will be televised live by Galavision and tape delayed on Fox Soccer Channel at 2 p.m. CT. Fans can also follow the match live on’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics. For a detailed quote sheet from select players and Head Coach John Hackworth, click here.

ALL_ACCESS: ALL TURF, ALL THE TIME: The U-17 World Championship in Peru marks the first time ever that a FIFA tournament will be played entirely on artificial turf, as all five venues – Chiclayo, Iquitos, Lima, Piura and Trujillo – were recently refurbished with the surface at a cost of $550,000 each. The 2003 FIFA U-17 World Championship in Finland also had matches played on turf (10 of the 32 matches, including the final at Toolo Stadium in Helsinki), but the U.S. played all four of their matches on grass, finishing the tournament in fifth place. So, how will the artificial surface affect the U.S. in the tournament? That is still to be seen, but in this all_access video get a feel of what the players think about the turf and how the surface might affect the overall play during games.

GOALLINE TECHNOLOGY: Another first during the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship will be the use of technology to determine if a ball has crossed the goal line. Every match will use a ball with an embedded microchip, which will send a signal to the referee and his assistants via a watch they will wear if a ball has crossed the goal line. The system is not the final factor of whether or not a goal has been scored as the referee still has the final determination, making the technology more of an aid to the officials than anything else. The goal line technology has never been used before during an official FIFA tournament and is being examined during the U-17 World Championship to determine the effectiveness of the system. Officials will then determine if the technology will be deployed at other tournaments, including the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.

SCOUTING REPORT: U.S. assistant coach Tim Mulqueen was given the laborious task of scouting the USA’s first opponent in North Korea. While finding out the tactics and tendencies of any youth national team can be a difficult assignment due to the lack of exposure they receive, trying to track down information on such a unfamiliar and secretive team such as North Korea makes the job a tall order for any coach. Find out how Mulqueen tracked down information on North Korea and what to expect from the Asian championship runner-up. Click here to listen.

WORDS OF ENCOURAGMENT: U.S. starting goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner got a bit of a surprise this afternoon as assistant coach Tim Mulqueen was able to track down Tim Howard on the phone to give him a bit of advice before the team’s opening match of the World Championship. Howard, who competed in the 1995 FIFA U-17 World Championship, gave Rueckner some tips on getting ready for the game, and reminded him to be relaxed and have fun as it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Rueckner said he was nervous talking to Howard, but said the advice will be helpful as he gets ready for North Korea. And he’d also like to apologize for calling him Tim one time instead of Mr. Howard.

SPANISH SPEAKERS: The Peruvian media has been surprised by the number of Spanish speakers on the U.S. U-17 MNT, as there are five players who are fluent (or close to it) on the team, including Omar Gonzalez, Diego Restrepo, David Arvizu and the Farfan twins, Gabriel and Michael. The cinco jugadores have been popular with the media and all have been requested during the first few days of training.

SOUTH AMERICA’S WINDY CITY: Chiclayo might not have the same skyline as Chicago, but the two cities do have one thing in common above and beyond their similar names: the wind. Chiclayo is well known for its windy conditions during the afternoon, which will no doubt affect most of the Group C matches. With South to Southwest winds at 15-25 mph hitting the city almost every day, the U.S. has worked in practice on handling the weather conditions in certain areas of the field and during certain situations that will occur in a game, such as free kicks and corner kicks.

FAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS: This will not be the first time the U.S. Under-17s have played at Elias Aguirre Romero Stadium as they faced Colombia in the venue a little more than a year ago during the Copa Telefonica Tournament. After a scoreless first half, the U.S. fell 2-0 to Colombia in what was their second match of the tournament. Eight players that are on the World Championship roster played in the match, including Bryant Rueckner, Ofori Sarkodie, Kevin Alston, Kyle Nakazawa, Ryan Soroka, Nikolas Besagno, Preston Zimmerman and Quavas Kirk. For a full match report, click here.

0 – Number of times the U.S. has faced North Korea in a World Championship (this is the first-ever appearance in a U-17 World Championship for the Asian country)
3 – U.S. wins against Asian teams in the U-17 World Championship (the U.S. holds a 3-5-1 record all-time with 19 goals for and 18 goals against)
4 – Best position the U.S. has ever finished at a FIFA U-17 World Championship, pulling off the feat in the 1999 tournament in New Zealand
5- Number of times the U.S. has won their opening match of the World Championship (’87, ’89, ’91, ’99, ’03)
7 – Shutouts in international matches by goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner, who holds an overall international 7-2-1 record in 2005
11 – This will be the 11th straight FIFA U-17 World Championship the U.S. has competed in, the only country that has played in every single tournament since 1985
12 – International wins recorded by U.S. head coach John Hackworth since taking over for John Ellinger in November of 2004 (his overall record is 12-3-1)
13 – Number of wins the U.S. has recorded during World Championship play (the U.S. has an overall record of 13-18-5)
15 – Number of international victories the U.S. has since September 2003, compiling a 15-11-6 record
30 – Forward Preston Zimmerman leads the team in international scoring with 30 points (11 goals, eight assists)
32 – Number of overall matches that will be played among the 16 teams in the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005
35 – Number of international appearances by Ryan Soroka, the team leader

KOREA’S PATH TO WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: North Korea (Korea DPR) emerged from the AFC U-17 Championship 2004 with an immense amount of confidence after finding their way to the final and eventually finishing in second place to secure their first-ever berth at a FIFA U-17 World Championship. In qualifying, North Korea fell in their opening match to China 2-1, but the disciplined squad recovered in their next match to wallop Thailand 4-1. After a scoreless draw with host Japan, they surprised everyone with a 1-0 victory in the quarterfinals over their southern neighbors, South Korea. In the semifinal, North Korea was the better team, but it took penalties to dispatch Qatar and get the chance to face Chin only to fall 1-0 and finish as the tournament runner-up.
2004 AFC Under-17 Championship
Group A Matches
North Korea 1, China 2
North Korea 4, Thailand 1
North Korea 0, Japan 0
North Korea 1, South Korea 0
North Korea 0, Qatar 0 (North Korea advances on PKs)
Third Place Match
Qatar 2, Iran 1
China 1, North Korea 0

TOP PLAYERS: Within what is a solid unit, the standouts on North Korea's squad are forward Ri Hung Ryong, who is their top goalscorer, and midfielder Choe Myong Ho, who is their most creative and dangerous player.

HIT THE GYM: Nine out of the 39 FIFA referees and assistants selected to officiate during the U-17 World Championship were sent home before the tournament started after failed fitness tests in Lima. While only three of the officials failed the tests, their entire three-man crew was sent home as FIFA requires that entire trios to be forced out of the competition if any of their members failed the fitness test. Oddly, all three crews were from CONMEBOL, representing four countries – Brazil, Paraguay, Chile and Peru. Replacements will be selected from the same confederation before the tournament begins. All of the referees chosen to officiate during the U-17 World Championship are in the list of candidates for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. is the official website of U.S. Soccer, the governing body of soccer in the United States.