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U-17 MNT

Nike International Friendlies Reach Milestone 10th Year of Competition

Notable names like Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Brek Shea and Eric Lichaj have hit the field for the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team at the Nike International Friendlies as well as more recent, up-and-coming players like Juan Agudelo, Zac MacMath, Jack McInerney, Joe Gyau and Perry Kitchen. All have helped lead the U.S. against marquee international opponents like Brazil, Russia, Turkey and Korea Republic in recent years.

Now, a new crop of players is set to leave its mark on the tournament’s milestone 10th edition from Nov. 28-Dec. 2 at Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.

The defending champion USA will square off against Brazil on Wednesday, Nov. 28, followed by matches against Turkey on Nov. 30 and Portugal on Dec. 2. All the U.S. matches begin at 5 p.m.

While the history of a tournament partnership between Nike and U.S. Soccer extends more than 10 years into the past, the addition of international competition for the U-17 MNT began in 2003 when the name changed from the U.S. Soccer/Nike Club Tournament to the Nike International Friendlies.

In 2003, the U-17 MNT had two teams in the competition, a team of players born in 1988 and a team made up of players born in 1987. The only international opponent that year was Brazil which beat the U-17 ’87s, featuring Michael Bradley, 2-1 on a late goal. Brazil also defeated the U-17 ’88s 1-0.

Brazil, which featured future superstar Neymar in 2008, will be making its eighth overall appearance in the tournament this year, the most of any international opponent. Turkey, the 2010 champion, returns for a third straight year.

The 2007 edition saw a strong U.S. team earn a 2-0 shutout against Russia and the team’s first win against Brazil in the Nike International Friendlies. Joe Gyau assisted on a goal by Carlos Martinez and Stefan Jerome added a penalty kick in the 80th minute to lead the U-17 MNT to a 2-0 win against the South American power.

This year, Portugal is making its first appearance since 2009, while other national teams that have participated in the Nike International Friendlies during the last 10 years include Australia, the Netherlands and France.

The Nike International Friendlies awarded its first trophy to the tournament’s winner in 2010 as Turkey defeated the U.S. 2-0 in a winner-take-all final matchup at the conclusion of the round-robin style competition. Ahmet Yilmaz Calik and Enver Cenk Sahin – both of whom recently played for the Turkey Under-20 National Team in September – scored on either side of halftime as Turkey earned seven points through its three matches and lifted the trophy.

The U.S. avenged its second-place finish in the 2011 tournament, earning a 3-1 win against Brazil in the team’s last match to hoist the championship trophy. Forward Rubio Rubin stunned Brazil with a clever flick over his shoulder to beat the goalkeeper in the second minute while Tyler Turner scored in the 31st minute and Wesley Wade added a third two minutes before halftime to propel the U.S. to victory.

Currently the only U.S. Soccer-led international youth soccer competition in the country, the Nike International Friendlies provide fans the opportunity to catch a glimpse of potential future stars on the path to challenge themselves at the top levels in the years to come.