PREVIEW: U.S. PNT Opens World Championships Against Australia

The U.S. Paralympic National Soccer Team begins its biggest competition of 2017 on Monday at the 2017 IFCPF CP Football World Championships in San Luis, Argentina against Australia. The tournament marks the start of a new four-year competition cycle and the first major international competition since last summer’s Paralympics in Rio.

The U.S. earned its spot in the tournament field by qualifying for the Paralympics while the Pararoos finished sixth at the 2016 IFCPF World Championship Qualification Tournament. The red, white and blue enter the World Championships with its highest-ever world ranking at sixth and own a four-match undefeated streak in 2017, having outscored opponents 21-3 this year.

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It’s the first international tournament for PNT newcomers Cameron DeLillo, Marc Estrella, Ben Lindau and Nick Mayhugh. The quartet joins ten returners from the Rio roster, who notched the team’s best finish at the Paralympics in more than a decade last summer. Mayhugh leads the team in scoring with five goals and DeLillo has added three tallies in their debut campaign.

The USA will face Australia, Northern Ireland and Ukraine in Group D, the tournament’s toughest draw by average world ranking. The Australians stand at No. 16 in the world and No. 3 in the Asia-Oceania region. The team is primed to ascend this year after signing a sponsorship deal with Australian health care company Zest Care last March. The sponsorship has allowed the team to train together full-time and implement a nationwide regional structure to improve the program’s reach.

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Australia is known for an unpredictable style and a vicious counterattack. The Pararoos are led by German head coach Kai Lammert, who has been with the team since 2006. At the 2015 World Championships, its last major international competition, Australia took 12th.

PNT Roster by Position (Hometown):
GOALKEEPERS (2): Boyle, Sean (Minneapolis, Minn.), Estrella, Marc (Bakersfield, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (6): Ballou, Adam (Virginia Beach, Va.), Boarman, Bryce (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Brigman, Gregory (Harrisburg, N.C.), Garza, David (San Diego, Calif.), Hensley, Kevin (Memphis, Tenn.), Lindau, Benjamin (Chicago, Ill.)
MIDFIELDERS (4): Abbiate, Mason (San Diego, Calif.), Bennett, Tyler (Wadsworth, Ohio), Bremer, Andrew (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Mayhugh, Nicholas (Manassas, Va.)
FORWARDS (2): DeLillo, Cameron (Blandon, Pa.), Jahn, Seth (Lakeland, Fla.) 

World Championships Matchday 2 Schedule:





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