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U-20 MNT Kicks Off Final Qualifying Preparations in Sunrise, Fla.

U-20 Men’s National Team
Notes from Sunrise, Fla.
Jan. 11, 2007

PREPPING FOR PANAMA: Eighteen of the 20 players on the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team roster trickled into Sunrise, Fla., throughout the day on Wednesday (Jan. 10) and got settled in before participating in their first training session, three days ahead of the team’s early morning excursion to Panama for the CONCACAF U-20 Final Round Qualifying Tournament. Head coach Thomas Rongen ran the 70-minute session and was pleased with the intensity and quality on Day One. The two players not with the team are Johann Smith and Preston Zimmerman, both of whom will join up with the team on Saturday, Jan. 13 in Panama.

PROFESSIONAL HELP: With six MLS players, four more to be drafted on Friday and three players plying their trade overseas, there are more professional players on the 2007 U.S. Under-20 qualifying roster than on any past qualifying roster at this age group. Freddy Adu (Real Salt Lake), Josmer Altidore (N.Y. Red Bulls), Quavas Kirk (L.A. Galaxy), Nathan Sturgis (L.A. Galaxy), Danny Szetela (Columbus Crew) and Tim Ward (Columbus Crew) all have at least one year of experience in the league, while Bryan Arguez, Amaechi Igwe, Chris Seitz and Anthony Wallace all recently signed with the league and will be available for the MLS SuperDraft, which will take place on Friday, Jan. 12 in Indianapolis, Ind. Rounding out the professionals are three players representing three different countries in Europe – Robbie Rogers (SC Heerenveen - Holland), Johann Smith (FC Bolton - England) and Preston Zimmerman (Hamburg SV - Germany). Below is a list of the number of professional players on the qualifying roster since 1999.

Professionals on U-20 Qualifying Roster
Year No. of Pros MLS Overseas A-League
2007 13 10 3 0
2005 8* 7* 1 0
2003 8 6 2 0
2001 6 4 2 0
1999 4 3 0 1
* Three players were not drafted by MLS until after qualifying started (Chad Barrett, Hunter Freeman and Will John)

GETTING READY FOR HAITI ON THE 17TH: The U.S. will open Group A of the 2007 CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying Tournament in Panama City, Panama, against Haiti on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 6:30 p.m. ET. Haiti, which won Group G in the second round of Caribbean Zone Qualifying, is probably the best of the three Caribbean teams to advance to the final round (the others being Jamaica and St. Kitts & Nevis, both in Group B). Two days later, on Friday, Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m. ET, the U.S. will face Guatemala, a team that is no stranger to the U.S. Under-20s as the two countries met twice in November (once in a closed-door scrimmage) with the U.S. coming away with 2-1 victories in both matches. The U-20s wrap up the qualifying tournament against Panama on Sunday, Jan. 21, at 6 p.m. ET, a team they defeated, 2-0, during 2005 U-20 qualifying in Carson, Calif. Every match will be played at Rommel Fernandez Stadium and fans can follow all three games on’s MatchTracker. The top two teams in the group will qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada, which will take place from June 30-July 22 across six cities – Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Burnaby and Victoria. The U.S. will be attempting to qualify for their sixth straight FIFA World Cup (formerly FIFA World Youth Championship).

2007 CONCACAF Final Round Group A Qualifying Schedule
Wednesday, Jan. 17
USA vs. Haiti
Guatemala vs. Panama

Friday, Jan. 19
USA vs. Guatemala
Panama vs. Haiti

Sunday, Jan. 21
Guatemala vs. Haiti
USA vs. Panama

GROUP B COMING NEXT MONTH: The other two of the four CONCACAF berths (not including Canada, which gets an automatic berth as host) will come from Group B of the 2007 CONCACAF Final Round Qualifying Tournament, which will occur a month later from Feb. 21-25 in Culiacan, Sinaloa, located on the west coast of Mexico. Competing alongside with Mexico will be Costa Rica, St. Kitts & Nevis and Jamaica.

OUT THEN IN, THE UNIQUE PATH BY BELTRAN: Tony Beltran figured his opportunity to make the U-20 qualifying roster had passed him by. After graciously allowing cameras to follow his every move in December for Studio 90’s ground-breaking reality video series “Roster Spot” as he tried to make the team, Beltran says he was “disappointed and embarrassed” after getting cut. The UCLA midfielder moved on, coming to the realization he would be following the games on’s MatchTracker like so many others. And then he received the call. Now that he’s back on the qualifying squad, he sat down with in this exclusive podcast to talk about his range of emotions during the past two weeks, how he found out he’d be going to Panama and where he now sees his role as he helps the U.S. in their attempt to advance to the World Cup.

DRAFT DAY A COMING: With the MLS SuperDraft set for Friday afternoon at 12 p.m. ET, there's plenty of buzz swirling through the U-20 camp. We caught up with Bryan Arguez, Amaechi Igwe, Chris Seitz and Anthony Wallace to gauge their frame of mind as they prepare to take the next step forward in their soccer careers. It's also an exciting time for those players already plying their trade in the USA's top league, giving them a chance to welcome a new teammate or perhaps kick-start a friendly rivalry at the next level. Fans can tune in to the first hour of the draft starting at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2, then log on to later in the day for exclusive reaction from all the players.

QUALIFYING BLOG: The goal is to advance to the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, but the journey is what the players and staff will remember for years to come…and in this case, so will you. During the CONCACAF U-20 Final Round Qualifying Tournament,’s exclusive U-20 Qualifying BLOG will provide fans with the most in-depth coverage from the team’s preparation in Florida to their crucial matches in Panama. Whether there’s something going on at the hotel, on the bus or during a training session, fans will feel like they’re with the team for every single moment.

“It’s awesome that Beckham is coming, but he’s going to take my number!”
-- Quavas Kirk, who’s number is 23 with the Los Angeles Galaxy, on the announcement that David Beckham will be joining the team.