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U-18 MNT Players Making Important Transition at Prestigious Milk Cup

USA Opens Tournament Against Mexico on Monday

The U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team, led by head coach Javier Perez, opens the 2013 Northern Ireland Milk Cup on Monday, July 29, against Mexico.

For this particular group, the tournament serves as an integral moment to solidify the next U-20 MNT, which is coming off an appearance at the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. That tournament included a 1-1 draw against eventual U-20 World Cup champion France.

The U-18s have spent the better part of a week preparing for the Milk Cup, which enters its 31st edition and has included alumni such as U.S. MNT forward Jozy Altidore and defender Jonathan Spector, to famed European strongholds such as David Beckham and Wayne Rooney.

“This camp is even more exciting because it’s the Milk Cup and it’s international competition,” Perez said. “There are teams from all over the five continents. The reality is this is probably one of the most prestigious tournaments in Europe. It has been organized for many years, so we are very excited.”

For Perez, this marks his second participation on the coaching side of this tournament. He assisted U-20 MNT head coach Tab Ramos at the 2012 event.

“This is a very important tournament for the U-18s because we don’t have a World Cup like the U-17s and U-20s,” Perez said. “This U-18 team serves to make that transition.”

The majority of the U-18 MNT roster features players who have been part of U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy.

“It’s the highest level of soccer in our country, and we have 17 out of our 18 players who have come through the Academy system,” Perez said. “It’s really important to us, and it was very difficult to make the player selections after Finals Week in Houston.”

Following the USA’s match against Mexico, the U-18s face host Northern Ireland on Wednesday, July 31, and Denmark on Friday, Aug. 2.

In 2012, the U.S. U-20 MNT finished in fourth place. The USA advanced to the third-place game but fell 4-3 to Chile. Mexico won last year’s championship with a 3-0 victory against Denmark.

The U.S. won the 2005 and 2010 tournaments, finishing ahead of host Northern Ireland on both occasions. The USA also took second place in 2006 behind Paraguay. This division has been in place since 1995, while the U-16 division has been featured since the start of the tournament in 1983.

USA’s Milk Cup Championship History:

  • In 2005, Charlie Davies tallied a hat trick and the U-18 MNT topped Northern Ireland 4-2 in the tournament’s title match on Aug. 5.
  • Northern Ireland took the early lead, but the U-18s scored four straight goals to comfortable win its first Milk Cup crown. Rodrigo Lopez capitalized on a 20th-minute penalty kick to tie the score at 1-1, and Davies netted goals in the 31st, 44th and 59th minutes to build a three-goal cushion. The latter goal came on a penalty kick.
  • The U.S. U-20 MNT was hoping to repeat as Milk Cup champion in 2006, but Paraguay shut out the USA 2-0 in the title match on Aug. 4.
  • In 2010, the USA’s U-20 team defeated Northern Ireland 3-0 in the championship match on July 30 as Gale Agbossoumonde, Juan Agudelo and Adrian Reulas each scored a goal. Goalkeeper Zac MacMath made four saves for the clean sheet.
  • Midfielder Dillon Powers was named the 2010 Milk Cup Most Valuable Player.