Just like this year’s tournament will serve as the kickoff of the new U-17 World Cup cycle, the 2015 event did so for the last group. The USA took its lumps, but finished in a respectable fourth-place in a field that featured tournament champions and eventual 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup winners England, as well as the Netherlands and Brazil.
At the 2014 event, the USA finished runner-up to Brazil in a tournament field that also included England and Australia. In 2013, the U.S., Brazil, England and Portugal made up the four-team field, with the U.S. winning the event with a victory over Brazil in the tournament’s final match. It was the USA’s second Nike Friendlies title in three years after also winning the 2011 title; Portugal won in 2012.
England and the Netherlands return for their first appearance since 2015, while Brazil has attended the tournament every year since 2006, in addition to a 2003 appearance.
Nike International Friendlies Champions:
USA: 2016, 2013, 2011
Brazil: 2014, 2009, 2008
The Nike International Friendlies have featured a number of players throughout the years who went on to play for the U.S. Men’s National Team, including current players Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Omar Gonzalez, Christian Pulisic and Rubio Rubin. The 2016 tournament featured Josh Sargent, who starred for the USA at both the 2017 FIFA U-20 and U-17 World Cups and earned his first senior team call-up for the MNT’s camp ahead of its 1-1 draw with Portugal on Nov. 14.
International players such as Brazil’s Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Marcelo, the Netherlands’ Memphis Depay, and many others have also taken the main stage in the well-regarded international tournament. Additionally, 13 players from England’s 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup championship side took part in the 2015 event, including Borussia Dortmund attacker Nya Kirby.
A View of the U.S. Roster
On Nov. 21, U.S. U-17 MNT head coach John Hackworth named a preliminary 24-player roster for the competition, with the group participating in a pre-tournament camp from Nov. 24-28. From there, Hackworth and his staff narrowed the roster to a final 20-player group that will compete in the tournament.
The players who will make up the new U-17 MNT player pool (birth year 2002 or later) competed as U-15 Boys’ National Team during 2016 and all of 2017 until this tournament. Like any U-17 MNT at the beginning of their cycle, the players and staff now set their focus on the 2019 CONCACAF U-17 Championship, where the top four teams will qualify for the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
In total, the 2002 BNT player pool has already gathered a total of four times in 2017, including two domestic camps earlier in the year as well as two major international tournaments: the 2017 Torneo delle Nazioni, which the team won, and the 2017 CONCACAF Under-15 Championship, where the U.S. finished runner-up.
All 24 players on the roster have ties to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, and the squad features two players who have signed professional contracts as M.L.S. Homegrown Players: George Bello (Atlanta United FC) and Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City).
Additionally, Bello is a DA Champion, having helped lead Atlanta United FC to the 2017 U-15/16 Development Academy national title.
U.S. U-17 MNT 2017 Nike International Friendlies Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (4): Damian Las (Chicago Fire; Norridge, Ill.), Kashope Oladapo (Portland Timbers; Happy Valley, Ore.)
DEFENDERS (7): Axel Alejandre (FC United Soccer Club; Chicago, Ill.), Sebastian Anderson (Colorado Rapids; Highlands Ranch, Co.), George Bello (Atlanta United FC; Douglasville, Ga.), Mason Judge (Chargers Soccer Club; Tampa, Fla.), Kenneth Nielsen (Pateadores; Irvine, Calif.), Joseph Scally (New York City FC; Lake Grove, N.Y.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Joshua Atencio (Seattle Sounders FC; Bellevue, Wash.), Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City; Greenboro, NC), Gilbert Fuentes Perez (San Jose Earthquakes; Tracy, Calif.), Maximillian Goeggel (VFB Stuttgart; San Francisco, Calif.), Adam Saldana (Real So Cal; Panorama City, Calif.), Peter Stroud (New York Red Bulls; Chester, NJ)
FORWARDS (7): Julian Gaines (Lonestar Soccer Club; Austin, Tex.), Cade Hagan (Sockers FC; Naperville, Ill.), Diego Lopez (FC Golden State; Chino, Calif.), Alfonso Ocampo Chavez (Seattle Sounders FC; Fresno, Calif.), Dante Sealy (FC Dallas; Frisco, Tex.), Ray Serrano (Seattle Sounders FC; Graham, Wash.)