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U.S. Under-17 Women's National Team Created; Heinrichs Names Three New Coaches

CHICAGO (Thursday, October 24, 2002) - With a focus on developing players for the Under-19 Women's National Team, U.S. Soccer has added an Under-17 Women's National Team to the stable of five Women's National Team programs, which includes the Under-16 Girls, Under-19 Women and Under-21 Women, in addition to the full Women's National Team.

Former U-19 Women's assistant coach Dave Smith will serve as the U-17 team's first head coach, in an appointment made by U.S. Women's National Team head coach and technical director April Heinrichs, and will guide the team for the first time when they get together in November.

In addition to the appointment of Smith, Heinrichs has also named Chris Petrucelli as the new Under-21 Women’s National Team head coach and former Under-21 WNT assistant coach Sue Patberg as the new Under-16 Girls National Team head coach.  The U.S. Under-21s have won four of the last five Nordic Cups, the tournament that is widely considered the premier event in the world for that age group. The Under-16 Girl’s National Team serves as a stepping-stone into the youth national teams program for young players and is often their first exposure to international soccer.

 “We started the U-17s because we felt it was vitally important to get more talented players training with national team coaches and with the best players in their age groups,” said Heinrichs.  “Just a short few years ago, we were neglecting an entire generation of players, but now with the U-16s, U-17s, U-19s and U-21s, we will not be overlooking a single birth year.  We are finding the best coaches and we are putting them positions where they can best serve the game and our players.”

The Under-17 Women’s National Team was created to develop players for the U-19 WNT and eventually the U-21 WNT and beyond.  The philosophy for the Under-17s is to accelerate the development of the USA’s best young players and to better prepare them for the game’s highest levels.  With all of the U.S. Youth National Teams increasing their programming in 2003, the Under-17 WNT’s schedule is expected to include a mixture of international trips and domestic camps and tournaments.  In 2003 a total of 30 trips are expected to be taken by the women’s national teams (U-16, U-17, U-19, U-21 and WNT) up from 18 trips in 2001.  In the last two years U.S. Soccer has more than doubled the programming budget for the women’s national teams.

David Smith takes over the new Under-17 WNT after serving as Tracey Leone’s assistant with the U.S. Under-19 Women’s squad.  Smith was a key component on the team that recently won the first-ever FIFA Under-19 Women’s World Championship.  Smith is active in the youth soccer scene in Texas, where he serves as the head coach of the South Region’s Girl’s Olympic Development Program and the Director of Coaching for CC United in Austin, Texas.  Smith came to the U.S. from England in 1989 and since has helped 12 different girl’s teams win Texas state and regional titles.

"When we decided to add an additional birth year to our national team program, I felt it was important that the coach was someone who was in touch with the youth development in America, but also understood how a national team should be run,” said Heinrichs. “With his great personality, his years of experience as a youth girls club coach and with two years of experience working with Tracey Leone with the U-19s, it was a decision to have our program run with consistency and continuity.  He is incredibly familiar with the two-year cycle for the U-19 team and how young players are constantly emerging and late-bloomers are arriving.  He will be able to identify earlier those players who can make the jump to a youth World Championship Team.”

A two-time National Coach of the Year, Petrucelli is one of the most decorated coaches in college soccer.  He molded Notre Dame into one on the nation’s premier programs, winning the NCAA title in 1995, before departing for the University of Texas.  Petrucelli took the Longhorns’ job on December 31, 1998, and quickly took Texas to new heights.  Just the second coach in Texas’ brief women’s soccer history, he led the Longhorns to back-to-back double-digit win seasons for the first time in school history (2000 and 2001), capturing the school’s first Big 12 title and guiding them to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2001.

 "Chris was the person I had in mind when the position became available,” said Heinrichs. “I feel strongly that Chris can jump in and not skip a beat.  He knows all the players in the pool at this age group and he brings a wealth of experience in coaching women."

Patberg has a wealth of experience as an assistant on the Under-21 Women’s National Team, where she helped the U.S. win Nordic Cup titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002.  Patberg is currently in her third season as the head coach at the University of Georgia.  Prior to Georgia, she started the soccer program at the University of Minnesota and spent seven seasons with the Golden Gophers.  In Minnesota she won two Big Ten titles, guided the team through the conference season with an undefeated record for the first time in Big Ten history and advanced to five NCAA tournaments.

"With the level of international experience Sue has gained in helping win three U-21 Nordic Cup championships, she is more than equipped for the job,” said Heinrichs.  “It is very important to have a coach at the U-16 level who is a great role model for the players, as it is the entry level to international competition.  Sue has played at a high level, is a model of fitness, is a great competitor and knows what it means to be a national team player."

Petrucelli replaces Jerry Smith, who coached the U.S. Under-21s to two Nordic Cup titles.  Patberg takes over from Steve Swanson as the Under-16 head coach.