5 Things to Know About the 2017 World Championships

As the U.S. Paralympic National Soccer Team kicks off the 2017 IFCPF CP Football World Championships on Monday, Sept. 11 in San Luis, Argentina, here are five things you should know about the team’s biggest competition since last summer’s Paralympics.

1. U.S. Against the World

The IFCPF (International Federation of Cerebral Palsy Football) CP Football World Championships represents the sport’s biggest competition of 2017 and the start of a new four-year competition cycle.

MORE: 2017 IFCPF CP Football World Championships

All eight teams that qualified for the Paralympics earned a spot in this year’s tournament, including the USA. The other eight teams in the field come from the 2016 IFCPF World Championship Qualification Tournament.

Teams were drawn into four groups of four last month. The top two teams advance from each group to the knockout rounds, but the bottom two teams and knockout round losers will continue to play placement matches to determine third through sixteenth place.

2. Tough Draw in Group D

The U.S. was drawn into the tournament’s most difficult group by average world ranking. The team will face off against Paralympic powerhouse Ukraine as well as up-and-coming Northern Ireland and Australia.

MORE: PNT Draws Paralympic Champ Ukraine, Northern Ireland and Australia in World Championships

Ukraine is the No. 1 team in the world and the reigning Paralympic champion. Last year’s squad never trailed in Rio, finishing the tournament with a plus-13 goal differential. The team has never been ranked below No. 2 in the world.

Northern Ireland and Australia are teams poised for breakouts. The European side qualified for the World Championships with a fifth-place finish at last year’s qualifying tournament. The strongest No. 3 seed in the draw, the team features former Manchester United and national team captain Mal Donaghy on the coaching staff.

The Pararoos earned their spot in Argentina with a sixth-place finish at the qualifying tournament. Recently sponsored by an Australian health company, the team has been training together full-time and expanded their reach with new nationwide regional organization.

Here’s the slate of Group D matches:

DATE

MATCH

TIME (ET)

VENUE

Sept. 11

Ukraine vs. Northern Ireland

3:00 p.m.

Stadium J.G. Funes

Sept. 11

USA vs. Australia

5:00 p.m.

Stadium J.G. Funes

Sept. 13

USA vs. Northern Ireland

3:00 p.m.

Stadium J.G. Funes

Sept. 13

Australia vs. Ukraine

5:00 p.m.

Stadium J.G. Funes

Sept. 15

Ukraine vs. USA

3:00 p.m.

Stadium J.G. Funes

Sept. 15

Northern Ireland vs. Australia

3:00 p.m.

Stadium Estancia Grande

3. New Kids on the Block

Four new players join the PNT squad from last summer’s Rio roster: Cameron DeLillo, Marc Estrella, Ben Lindau and Nick Mayhugh. The quartet joins ten returning players from the Paralympics. All four earned their first caps in the team’s first match of the year, at Chile in June, and have made an instant impact.

MORE: Sharp Names Paralympic National Team Roster for World Championships

DeLillo and Mayhugh have blown up the scoresheet this summer. In four international challenge matches, Mayhugh has 5 goals and 2 assists, including the go-ahead goal in the team’s July 23 victory over Canada, while DeLillo has scored three goals and assisted on three more. Lindau has contributed on the defensive end and Estrella has spent time minding the net. 

4. Undefeated in 2017

The PNT head into the World Championships ranked sixth in the world, it’s highest spot in team history. The team has earned this position after its most successful Paralympic Games in a decade, and the U.S. has kept it rolling in 2017.

MORE: #TBT: PNT’s Road to the World Championships

The red, white and blue are undefeated through four international matches in 2017. In June, the team returned to South America for a pair of contests against Chile, as the U.S. routed La Roja 6-0 and 10-0.

In July, the PNT returned home for its first domestic challenge matches since February 2014 against Canada in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. The crowd had plenty to cheer about as the team earned a 2-2 draw and a 3-1 victory over the Canucks.

5. About the PNT

The PNT is made up of players with a neurological condition such as cerebral palsy (CP), a stroke, or traumatic brain injury. While these impairments may not be immediately visible, they can impact balance, coordination and muscle function. Paralympic soccer, or CP soccer, is slightly different than the standard sport- there are only seven players a side and its played on a smaller field with games.

MORE: PNT 101: What is the U.S. Paralympic National Soccer Team?

Before competition, players are classified by the degree their impairment impacts their on-field performance. Teams are only allowed to have one of the least-impaired players on the field at a time and must play at least two players from the most impaired classes at all times.