CHICAGO (Monday, August 19, 2002) — Qualifying for the 2002 FIFA World Youth Championship being hosted by U.S. Soccer will be staged in Charleston, S.C., at Blackbaud Stadium from November 13-17, 2002. This marks the first time in 22 years that U.S. Soccer has hosted an Under-20 qualifying tournament.
The four-team, Group B qualifying tournament will feature the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team, as well as Canada and the second-place team from Central America and the winner from the Caribbean playoff between the Group B and Group C champions, in a six-game, round-robin tournament. The top two finishers in Group B group will advance to the FIFA World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates from March 25–April 16, 2003. This region’s other final round qualifying tournament will be held in Panama from October 16-20, 2002.
“We’ve been training and preparing for this event for almost a year now, and I think this team is ready for the challenge ahead of us,” said U.S. Under-20 head coach Thomas Rongen. “We have a nice mix of college and professional players, and I think Blackbaud Stadium and the fans there will help us reach our goal of qualifying for next year’s world championship.”
The U.S. Under-20 MNT have posted a 10-5-9 record in 2002, scoring nearly twice as many goals as their opposition (39-20). While a roster will not be released until the tournament approaches, this pool of Under-20s (players born since January 1, 1983) includes a blend of MLS players, European professionals, and college players.
Several players who are eligible for selection to Rongen’s squad are currently playing in Major League Soccer, including Devin Barclay (San Jose Earthquakes), Craig Capano (Chicago Fire), Bobby Convey (D.C. United), Eddie Johnson (Dallas Burn), Justin Mapp (D.C. United), Santino Quaranta (D.C. United), Miguel Saavedra (Chicago) and Jordan Stone (Dallas Burn).
The team also includes a plethora of players who have had already had success in youth qualifying tournaments. Convey, who has played with the U.S. Under-20s since 2000, scored three goals in the 2001 qualifying tournament in Trinidad & Tobago to help the U.S. secure a spot in the FIFA World Youth Championship in Argentina.
Eddie Johnson, one of 11 U.S. players who were a part of team that qualified for and played in the 2001 FIFA Under-17 World Championship and have seen extensive time with the Under-20s this year, is expected to play a major role for the U.S. in Charleston. Johnson, who has scored twice in limited play with the Under-20s in 2002, scored five goals in the final two games of the 2001 Under-17 World Championship qualifying tournament, including a hat trick in the deciding game.
U.S. Soccer has had success at Blackbaud Stadium in the past. The U.S. Women's National Team posted a 7-0 win over Mexico in front of a sell-out crowd of 5,364 on January 12, 2002, and in the run up to the 2000 Olympics, the U.S. Under-23 MNT played Canada to a 1-1 draw at Blackbaud Stadium on May 19, 1999.
This tournament marks the first time since 1980 that U.S. Soccer has hosted an Under-20 qualifying tournament. Last year U.S. Soccer hosted the 2001 Under-17 Group A qualifying tournament in St. Louis, Mo. Led by Eddie Johnson, the U.S. Under-17s qualified for their ninth consecutive Under-17 World Championship by finishing atop the group.
CONCACAF Under-20 Qualifying Tournaments
Final Round (Top Two Teams In Each Group Advance to 2003 World Youth Championship)
Group A - October 16-20, 2002 (Panama): Panama, Mexico, 1st Place Central America, Winner Caribbean A/D
Group B - November 13-17, 2002 (Charleston, S.C.): United States, Canada, 2nd Place Central America, Winner Caribbean B/C
Central America (Top Two Teams Advance to Final Qualifying) - Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua
Caribbean (Winner of A Plays Winner of D; Winner of B Plays Winner of C; Winner A/D and Winner B/C advance to Final Qualifying)
Group A: Trinidad & Tobago (winner)
Group B: Cayman Islands (host); Jamaica; Puerto Rico
Group C: St. Kitts & Nevis (host); Antigua & Barbuda; Bahamas; Haiti
Group D: Saint Lucia (host); Cuba, Dominica, Grenada