QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT OVERVIEW: The United States Under-20 Men’s National Team will face Haiti, El Salvador and Canada in the CONCACAF Under-20 Group B Qualifying Tournament at Blackbaud Stadium in a series of three doubleheaders. The U.S. Under-20s, who are attempting to qualify for a fourth consecutive FIFA World Youth Championship for the first time in U.S. Soccer history, play the second match on each day and open on November 13 at 7:30 p.m. ET against Haiti before facing El Salvador on November 15 at 7:30 p.m. ET and then wrapping up the tournament against Canada on November 17 at 2:30 p.m. ET. The top two finishers in Charleston will advance to the FIFA World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates from March 25 – April 16, 2003.
PLAYERS TURN INTO COACHES: The U.S. Under-20s had a very memorable, and according to the players, very rewarding night on Thursday when the team went through a little bit of a role reversal and became the teachers instead of the students. The U.S. Under-20s split into two groups, and then spent an hour with two local youth soccer clubs. Half of the team traveled to James Island, where the players interacted with and helped out teams from the James Island Youth Soccer Club, while the other U.S. players traveled across the Cooper River Bridge to Patriots Point, where they trained teams from the Mount Pleasant Soccer Club. One of the more memorable scenes occurred at Patriots Point, where U.S. midfielder Bobby Convey was working with a very skilled group of young male players, including a kid wearing a Bobby Convey D.C. United jersey. Other highlights included Chris Lancos and Justin Mapp taking on an entire team of youngsters, and huge forward Knox Cameron coaching and encouraging a group of U-10 girls who came up to his waist.
ON THE FIELD: The U.S. team went through a 90-minute training session this morning at the College of Charleston’s beautiful stadium field at Patriots Point. Much of the training was spent with Dave Dir working with the attacking players on one end of the field and Cle Kooiman working with the defenders on the other end. Both Ford Williams and Steve Cronin saw plenty of action in the goalmouth as the U.S. attackers begin to round into form, and Santino Quaranta, Ed Johnson and Knox Cameron were especially impressive in front of goal.
LOOKING AHEAD: The U.S., which has bounced around various training sites in their first week in Charleston, will train again at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, S.C. on Friday. The U.S. team will train twice on Friday, with the morning session expected to be a light one, and the team going through more of a workout in the evening. The team will train again on Saturday in the late morning, and then Thomas Rongen will give the team the rest of the afternoon off.
GLADLY DOING DOUBLE DUTY: On Rongen’s 18-man qualifying roster there are 10 players who are still playing college soccer. When the U.S. Under-20 MNT gathered last week in Charleston, the college soccer season was nearing the postseason. While most of the players were forced to put the college season on hold for two weeks, U.S. and Furman midfielder Ricardo Clark and U.S. and UNC goalkeeper Ford Williams did not. Both Clark and Williams are scheduled to play with their college teams this weekend. Williams will fly back up to Chapel Hill to play against South Carolina on Saturday in a battle of two top-25 squads. Clark will return to Greenville, S.C., where Furman hosts Davidson on Sunday.
VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR? While the U.S. team was allowed to sleep in a little on Wednesday morning, Chris Lancos and Steve Cronin woke up as early as they have all trip. The two took a short drive over the bridge into Mount Pleasant where they appeared on the WXLY Oldies 102.5 morning show. The hosts were stunned at the players’ worldwide travel and quizzed the players on a variety of subjects, including past results against Haiti (most recently, the U-17s posted a 3-2 win over Haiti in Fla. in 2001, with Justin Mapp scoring once and Ed Johnson adding two goals). To both of their disappointment neither Cronin nor Lancos were able to answer the radio show’s morning trivia question: “Which rising young actor starred in Rocket Man?” The answer? Harland Williams.
ALTERNATES SET FOR DEPARTURE: When Thomas Rongen named his 18-man qualifying roster, he also named Craig Capano, Miguel Saavedra and Clint Baumstark as alternates. While Baumstark stayed with his college team at Univ. Alabama-Birmingham, Capano and Saavedra arrived with the team in Charleston, S.C., on November 3, and have been a part of the team since. However, the duo is scheduled to leave Charleston on November 9.
TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE: Tickets for the qualifying tournament are currently available at all Ticketmaster outlets throughout the Carolinas (including Publix and Cat’s Music Stores), by phone at 843-554-6060, on-line at www.ussoccer.com and at Blackbaud Stadium (office open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Series and group tickets are available through the Charleston Battery at 843-971-4625 or U.S. Soccer at 312-528-1249.
U.S. U-20 MATCHES AVAILABLE ON PAY-PER-VIEW: U.S. Soccer and Innovative Sports Marketing have partnered to make the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team’s three matches at the CONCACAF Under-20 qualifying tournament available on pay-per-view. The three U.S. qualifying matches will be shown live and are available for $19.95 each through DirecTV and Time-Warner cable (in New York City). For more information on the pay-per-view broadcasts, contact ISM at 201-610-0200 or ismsports.com.