With the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team set to kick off Group C of the 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship against Jamaica on Sunday, April 23 (1:30 p.m. ET; Facebook Live)., U-17 MNT head coach John Hackworth sat down with ussoccer.com in Bradenton Fla., where the team has been preparing for the FIFA U-17 World Cup qualifying tournament.
Hackworth is entering his third CONCACAF U-17 Championship as the USA head coach, having previously led the team in 2005 and 2007. He also served as an assistant with the U-17 MNT in 2003. The U.S. qualified for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in each instance.
ussoccer.com: What were the challenges in determining the final roster?
John Hackworth: “The depth of the player pool in this age group is as good as we have ever seen. Thus, our decisions in selecting the final roster were difficult.”
ussoccer.com: What does the experience of going through CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying do for a player?
JH: “From a developmental view, it is invaluable. It is a competition that presents challenges both on and off the field. It exposes them at the earliest age possible to the demands and difficulties of qualifying for a FIFA World Cup in a CONCACAF event.”
ussoccer.com: What would you most like to see your players get out of this experience?
JH: “Successfully navigating through the demands of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying.”
ussoccer.com: How you would compare and describe the selection process for this roster to your past CONCACAF U-17 Championship rosters?
JH: “The selection process is always difficult. But as I mentioned previously, the depth of this particular player pool made it challenging. In addition, we have players based in Europe and several that turned pro (leaving Residency).”
ussoccer.com: Can you speak to the dynamics of this group of players, especially as some of whom were in Residency, but left to sign pro contracts?
JH: “This is a close group of young men. Andrew Carleton and I were speaking about it the other day. We were talking about his experiences and adjustments in becoming a pro with Atlanta United, then returning here and integrating with the guys in Residency. He said, ‘Coach, these are my boys. I love these guys.’ Enough said.”
ussoccer.com: What is the goal and mindset for the next several days before facing Jamaica?
JH: “To ensure that we are as prepared as we can be for that opening match vs. Jamaica. We played them in the fall and know that they are a talented, well-coached team. At the same time, we need to trust in our preparation and feel confident that the planning and work that we have put in will allow us to be ready for that first Group C match.”
ussoccer.com: Chris Durkin (D.C. United), Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin (both Atlanta United FC) are the three professional players on the team. What are you hoping they bring the squad for this tournament?
JH: “Our hope is that they have matured and can bring elements of the experiences they have gained that will make our team even stronger.”
ussoccer.com: Is there any sense with the team that this tournament will be unique with Residency closing this spring?
JH: “We understand that this group will be the last to have gone through Residency prior to competing in World Cup Qualifying. I believe that each and every one of us, players & staff, is extremely proud of that fact. However, our mindset is to focus completely on the task of attempting to qualify for the World Cup in India. We certainly won’t be sentimental in our focus.”