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U.S. Under-20 Women to Compete in CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament in Mexico From Jan. 18-27, 2006

USA Will Attempt to Qualify for 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship;
U.S. Head Coach Tim Schulz to Run Training Camp from Jan. 2-10 at HDC

CHICAGO (November 22, 2005) – CONCACAF has announced that the Women’s Under-20 Final Qualifying Tournament will be hosted by Mexico from January 18-27, 2006, in Veracruz at Luis Pirata Fuentes Stadium and in Cordoba at Rafael Murillo Vidal Stadium.

The USA was drawn into Group B, which also features Surinam, Jamaica and the yet-to-be determined winner of the Central American Group 2. Group A features reigning U-20 CONCACAF championships Canada and host Mexico along with Panama and Trinidad & Tobago.

“After five months of scouring the country and watching players, I’m excited to finally start training and get the team ready for some important games,” said U.S. U-20 head coach Tim Schulz. “I think we have a good mix of seasoned players and new, exciting talent. Blending the two together will give us a great mix.”

The top three finishers in the tournament will advance to the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship to be held in Russia from Aug. 17-Sept. 3, 2006. A total of 16 teams will compete for the title, made up by four teams from Europe, three from CONCACAF and Asia, two from both Africa and South America, one from Oceania, and host Russia. The European entrants have already been determined with Germany, France and surprise qualifiers Finland and Switzerland earning berths at the most recent UEFA U-19 Women’s Championships held last August in Hungary.

The CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Final Qualifying Tournament schedule will be confirmed and announced in the next two weeks, but the group winners and the second place finishers will advance to the semifinals in a “cross-over” format with the winners of the semifinals games and the third-place match advancing to Russia.

Next year marks the first FIFA women’s youth world championship at the Under-20 level, with the previous two being held as Under-19 events. The United States won the first-ever FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship in historic fashion, downing host Canada, 1-0, in front of almost 50,000 fans in Edmonton in 2002. That team featured current U.S. Women’s National Team players Lindsay Tarpley, who scored the “golden goal” in the championship match, Heather O’Reilly, Lori Chalupny, Leslie Osborne and Jill Oakes.

At the 2004 event in Thailand, the USA finished third, losing to eventual champion Germany in the semifinals before defeating Brazil for the bronze medal. Three players from that team have already earned caps with the senior team in forward Amy Rodriguez, midfielder Angie Woznuk and defender Stephanie Lopez.

The 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship is for players born on or after Jan. 1, 1986. With FIFA moving the youth women’s world championship from a U-19 event to U-20s, 10 of the 21 players who were on the USA’s U-19 Women’s World Championship squad in Thailand (including Rodriguez and Lopez) are age-eligible for this next event. Several of those players will be attending the first U-20 training camp of the new year from Jan. 2-10 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., as Schulz brings in 30 players to begin the challenge of quickly preparing a relatively new team for qualifying.

“It’s important that we work on team tactics because we don’t have a lot of time,” said Schulz. “I also need to identify the best 18 players at this time for the qualifying tournament and try to develop a style of play. It’s also very important to begin to bond together and establish that team chemistry. It’s a difficult task for a young team as they are looking over their shoulder and competing for spots on the 18 [player roster], but at the same time, developing that chemistry is very important for success.”

At the 2002 CONCACAF Final Qualifying Tournament held in Trinidad & Tobago, the U.S. U-19 team rolled over the competition, defeating Surinam (a Group B opponent in Mexico) by a 15-0 score, then downing Haiti, 5-0, and Costa Rica, 14-1. 

At the 2004 CONCACAF Final Qualifying Tournament held in Canada on artificial turf, the USA defeated the Dominican Republic, 14-0, before downing T&T, 11-1. The USA then surprisingly tied Costa Rica, 0-0, in the final group match before beating Mexico, 6-0, in the semifinals to qualify for Thailand. The USA then absorbed its only loss ever in CONCACAF qualifying, falling to Canada 2-1 in the title game.

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