2000 U.S. U-17 Men's National Team Begins Full-Time Residency Program, Jan. 17
A pool of 18 under-17 players will leave their family and friends to train full-time with head coach Ellinger and the U.S. U-17 National Team at the Bollettieri Sports Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The players will attend normal high school-level classes in the morning at Bradenton Academy and will have a mixture of training and matches daily.
In what will be his second full-time residency as head coach of the U.S. U-17 team, John Ellinger will begin preparing his new crop of players for the CONCACAF qualifying tournament to be held in November of 2000. Ellinger was the most successful coach in the history of U.S. Soccer's men's national teams program in the 90s with a .723 win percentage and a 30-8-9 record.
The goals of the residency program coincide with the Federation's stated plans for Project 2010, which include identifying and nurturing the top youth players in the country and competing for a World Cup title by the year 2010.
"You can't really put in to words how incredibly successful the first U-17 residency camp was for U.S. Soccer," said Hank Steinbrecher, U.S. Soccer's Secretary General. "This type of program is a great jumping off point for the development of our players, but we know it is just a beginning. To achieve the goals of Project 2010 we must continue to integrate player development at every level of our youth and state associations through to the professional ranks."
The primary focus for the U-17s in 2000 will be the CONCACAF U-17 qualification tournament with a long-term focus on the 2001 FIFA U-17 World Championship. Leading up to the qualifying tournament the U.S. U-17s are scheduled to participate in a foreign tour to Mexico and Europe, travel to Trinidad & Tobago for an international tournament and also participate in the Ballymena Millennium Tournament in Northern Ireland.
Under the guidance of Ellinger, the '99 U.S. U-17 team closed out a brilliant run through the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship in New Zealand finishing fourth, the best finish at a FIFA world championship in the 19-year history of the U.S. U-17 Men's program. The USA's loss to Ghana in the consolation match at the world championship officially ended the U.S. unbeaten streak of 25 games, a streak which began way back in August of 1998 and spanned 15 months, making it the longest unbeaten streak in the history of U.S. Soccer's Men's National Team program. During that time, the team built an impressive record of 19-0-6.
At the world championship U.S. U-17 stars Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley swept the top two awards, the FIFA Gold and Silver Ball award, that goes to the outstanding players of the tournament. Donovan finished the tournament with three goals and an assist, and continually showed the class that earned him a professional contract with Bayer Leverkusen of the German Bundesliga at the age of 16. With three tournament goals, Donovan finished his U-17 career with 35 goals in 41 international appearances. USA teammate DaMarcus Beasley won two Man of the Match awards and scored one of the goals of the tournament against Mexico in the quarterfinal match. Beasley will play for the Los Angeles Galaxy next year as part of U.S. Soccer's and MLS's Project-40.
The success of U.S. Soccer's national teams in 1999 would not have been possible without the support and commitment of the State and club youth soccer associations. The tremendous job in creating a competitive and healthy soccer environment for boys and girls to develop into future professionals and national team stars has pushed U.S. Soccer toward their goals outlined in Project 2010 and Project Gold.
As the year comes to an end and a new millennium is on the horizon, U.S. Soccer can look back and reflect on one of the most successful years in the history of the Federation and its National Team Programs. With six "top four" finishes in major competitions, a FIFA World Championship, individual honors and increased prestige on the world stage, U.S. Soccer has successfully planted the seeds for Project 2010, the Federation's plan to compete for a World Cup championship by the year 2010, and Project Gold, the Federation's plan for the U.S. Women's National Team to "win forever."