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Under-20 Men Complete First Day of Training in Kano, Nigeria

KANO, Nigeria (Friday, April 2, 1999) - After arriving to Kano, Nigeria, on Thursday (April 1), the U.S. Under-20 National Team opened camp today at the Bayero University Kano. Team USA is making last-minute preparations for the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship, which will officially kickoff on Saturday (April 3) when host Nigeria plays Costa Rica in Lagos.

The American team, led by head coach Sigi Schmid, will open the tournament at the Sani Abachi Stadium on Monday (April 5) against England, and play other first-round matches against Japan (April 8) and Cameroon (April 11), both in the city of Bauchi. The top two teams in each of the six groups, as well as the four best second-place teams will advance to the second round.

Of the USA's three, first-round opponents, England is the only team it has played in a previous World Youth Championship. The USA's 1993 squad dropped a 0-1 decision to England in Australia. Japan finished as runners-up in the Asian qualifying tournament, while Cameroon, who the U.S. will face in its final group match, finished fourth in the African Youth Championship.

The United States qualified for the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship by finishing first in CONCACAF Group A qualifying, which was played Aug. 3-7, 1998, in Trinidad. During the tournament, the U.S. tied Costa Rica (1-1) before soundly defeating Canada (5-1) and host Trinidad & Tobago (6-1).

Nigeria '99 marks the second consecutive World Youth Championship for the USA, which finished 15th overall at the 1997 tournament in Malaysia. During Malaysia '97, the USA advanced out the most difficult first-round group, which included eventual semifinalists Ghana and Ireland, as well as China. In the Round of 16, the U.S. were defeated by tournament runner-up Uruguay, one of the surprises of the competition.

The USA's best-ever finish in a World Youth Championship came in 1989 in Saudi Arabia. Behind the solid goalkeeping of Kasey Keller, who was voted the second best player in the tournament, the U.S. U-20s advanced to the semifinals, where a they were defeated in extra time by Nigeria.

The American team will continue training on Saturday and Sunday in preparation for Monday's opening match against England in Kano.