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Wilmer Cabrera Named Head Coach of U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team

CHICAGO (October 25, 2007) — U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati has named Wilmer Cabrera, a two-time World Cup veteran from Colombia, as head coach of the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team. Cabrera, 40, will oversee U.S. Soccer’s U-17 Residency Program from Bradenton, Fla., where 40 of the country’s elite players reside year-round and train in a professional environment to help them develop and become talented players that climb the ladder in the men's national program.

Gulati also announced that U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team head coach Thomas Rongen’s contract has been extended through the 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup cycle.

"Wilmer is going to be a great addition to all of our player development initiatives,” said Gulati. “He has played at the highest level of the sport and will bring a unique perspective to our programs. He has been very involved in our youth national teams across the past year, and has done the work at the grassroots since relocating to the United States that make him an ideal candidate.”

Cabrera, who earned his USSF A Coaching License in 2005, has been a member of the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team staff since January of 2007, serving as an assistant coach under Bob Jenkins. He has been a part of a number of camps, including trips to Mexico, Portugal and Japan earlier this year.

"I know the system, and I know our youth programs very well,” said Cabrera. “And this is a beautiful challenge for me and a great responsibility. I am very much looking forward to contributing to the developmental environment that is growing in the United States for youth players.”

The former Colombian international is a veteran of two FIFA World Cups, being named to the roster in 1990 and playing in three matches in France in 1998. The defender earned a total of 48 caps during nine years with the national team, missing out on the 1994 World Cup in the USA because of an injury. He also represented Colombia at two FIFA U-20 World Cups (1985 in the Soviet Union and 1987 in Chile), starting all three games for the team in the 1987 tournament after being selected to the 1985 roster at age 17.

Cabrera has coached at the U-17/18 level at the prestigious B/W Gottschee in Ridgewood, N.Y., one of 62 clubs chosen as an inaugural member of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, since 2005.

Cabrera began his professional career at Santa Fe de Bogatá in Colombia in 1985 at age 17. He went on to play professionally for 18 years in Colombia, Argentina and Costa Rica, highlighted by eight years with Colombia’s América de Cali. He was also a founding member of Chico Futbol Club in the mid-1990s, serving as the team’s first coach and helping guide them to promotion to the first division after just two years.

In 2003, Cabrera moved to the United States and played for two years with the United Soccer League’s Long Island Rough Riders. He also worked in an administrative role at Major League Soccer, contributing to the growth of the sport through his position as Manager of Fan Development. In that role, he served as the spokesperson for MLS Futbolito and Verano MLS, two programs aimed at grassroots development of soccer in the United States.

In his international career, Cabrera played against the United States in four official games, appearing as a sub on April 22, 1990, and July 31, 1992, both 1-0 victories for Colombia. He also started and played the full 90 minutes against the U.S. in a 0-0 draw on June 25, 1995, a memorable game that concluded the 1995 Nike U.S. Cup. He also went the distance in a 4-1 win for Colombia at the 1995 Copa America that denied the U.S. a third-place finish.

Rongen led the Under-20 team in their exciting quarterfinal run in 2007 World Cup in Canada. He was also at the helm in the 2003 tournament where the U.S. finished in fifth place.

“I am excited to be continuing with the Under-20 team,” said Rongen. “I want to thank the Federation for the opportunity to build on the success we have had in the past few years, and I look forward to moving on with the promising young players who will be working toward the 2009 U-20 World Cup.”

Rongen will begin the two-year cycle by leading an Under-18 team in the Limoges Tournament in France in late October. The 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup will be held in Egypt.

"Having Thomas back on board and having Wilmer join our Youth National Team staff is great for our program," said U.S. Men's National Team head coach Bob Bradley. "It is very clear in the appointments that have been made this week that the focus within our Youth National Teams is about player development. It is important for us moving forward to continue to connect all of our programs, from the Development Academy through to the U.S. National Team."

The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team is the only team in the world to have qualified for every World Cup at that age level, earning one fourth-place and two fifth-place finishes in five World Cup cycles since the launch of the U-17 Residency Program in 1999.

Since the establishment of U-17 Residency almost nine years ago, the program has seen remarkable success in connecting players through U.S. Soccer’s National Team program and on to the full team. Of the 60 players capped by Bradley in 2007, 12 have been a part of the Under-17 Residency Program, a strong reflection of the programs development. Five players from the U-17 Residency Program (Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu, Bobby Convey and Eddie Johnson) participated in the 2006 FIFA World Cup.