CHICAGO (Nov. 26, 2018) — Acting U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach Shaun Tsakiris has named a 24-player roster for the annual Nike International Friendlies, to be held at the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2. The elite four-team tournament will feature the USA, Brazil, Portugal and Turkey. The USA kicks things off against Portugal on Wednesday, Nov. 28 (6:30 p.m. ET), takes on Turkey on Friday, Nov. 30 (6:30 p.m. ET) and wraps up versus Brazil on Sunday, Dec. 2 (5:30 p.m. ET).
“The Nike International Friendlies are another important opportunity to evaluate players who have done well with their clubs,” Tsakiris said. “The reality of the National Team is that the player pool is constantly being evaluated. High-level games like these provide an invaluable opportunity to see the progress of our players and for them to show us that they deserve to be a part of our group moving forward.”
This year’s Nike International Friendlies will feature players born on or after Jan. 1, 2002, the age cut-off date for the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup, to be held in Peru in Oct. 2019. It will serve as important preparation as all four nations attempt to qualify for the World Cup next spring.
2018 Nike International Friendlies Roster by Position (Club or College; Hometown; Caps/Goals)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Trace Alphin (North Carolina FC; Raleigh, N.C.; 0/0), Damian Las (Chicago Fire; Norridge, Ill.; 11/0), Chituru Odunze (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN; Calgary, Alberta; 3/0)
DEFENDERS (8): Axel Alejandre (FC United; Chicago, Ill.; 12/0), Adam Armour (North Carolina FC; Cary, N.C.; 8/0), Sebastian Falsone (Virginia Development Academy; Warrenton, Va.; 0/0), Jonathan Gomez (FC Dallas; Keller, Texas; 0/0), Tayvon Gray (New York City FC; Bronx, N.Y.; 7/0), Kobe Hernandez (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 11/1), Mason Judge (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER; Tampa, Fla.; 10/0), Joe Scally (New York City FC; Lake Grove, N.Y.; 11/1)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Masango Akale (Minnesota Thunder Academy; Minneapolis, Minn.; 0/0), Andre Luiz Costa (Rayo Vallecano/ESP; Madrid, Spain; 0/0), William Reilly (Atlanta United FC; Decatur, Ga.; 2/0), Giovanni Reyna (Unattached; Bedford, N.Y.; 5/1), Adam Saldana (LA Galaxy; Panorama City, Calif.; 14/1), Peter Stroud (West Ham United/ENG; Chester, N.J.; 12/0)
FORWARDS (7): Cameron Dunbar (LA Galaxy; Chula Vista, Calif.; 0/0), Ruben Hernandez (Club Leon/MEX; Manteca, Calif.; 0/0), Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Seattle Sounders FC; Kent, Wash.; 12/5), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas; 3/0), Daniel Robles (Seattle Sounders FC; White Center, Wash.; 5/0), Alex Villanueva (Seattle Sounders FC; Maple Valley, Wash.; 0/0), Griffin Yow (D.C. United; Clifton, Va.; 3/2)
2018 Nike International Friendlies Schedule
Wednesday, Nov. 28
Turkey vs. Brazil, 3:30 p.m. ET
USA vs. Portugal, 6:30 p.m. ET
Friday, Nov. 30
Portugal vs. Brazil, 3:30 p.m. ET
USA vs. Turkey, 6:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, Dec. 2
Portugal vs. Turkey, 2:30 p.m. ET
USA vs. Brazil, 5:30 p.m. ET
Started in 2001, and adopting their current format in 2008, the Nike International Friendlies were founded to provided top-level competition for the U-17 MNT and stand as one of the premier annual events on the youth soccer calendar. Seven players on the latest senior Men’s National Team roster competed at the Nike International Friendlies: Kellyn Acosta, Tyler Adams, Shaq Moore, Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Luca de la Torre and Tim Weah, while the event has also seen international talent like Brazil’s Phillipe Coutinho, Neymar and Marcelo and England’s Jadon Sancho pass through the Premier Sports Campus.
The event is held annually in conjunction with the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase, which brings together every Academy club from across the country for a series of highly-competitive matches. Eighteen players called to the U-17 MNT roster are currently competing in the 2018-19 Academy season, while 22 of 24 have spent time playing in the Academy.
The USA will seek its first Nike Friendlies title since 2016, when the USA, featuring current MNT players Sargent and Weah, topped the same three teams that will feature in this year’s competition by a combined score of 15-2. The U.S. finished last year’s tournament 0-2-1 as it kicked off the cycle against England, Netherlands and Brazil, capping off the tournament with a spirited 1-1 draw versus the South Americans.
Tsakiris has called in a mix of experienced players and newcomers for the tournament. Sixteen of the 24 players that will represent the USA in Florida have been capped at this level, while eight are participating in their first training camp/event with the U-17s. Three players: goalkeeper Damian Las, defender Axel Alejandre and midfielder Adam Saldana, have appeared in all eight events of the U-17 cycle thus far.
As the USA prepares for next spring’s 2019 Concacaf U-17 Championship, the U-17s have played 14 international games in 2018, compiling an 8-4-2 record. Those results include three international tournaments: the 2018 Sportchain Cup, where the U.S. defeated India and Norway twice each to take home the title, Mexico’s Four Nations Tournament, that featured showdowns with the host, Argentina and Chile as well as England’s U-17 International Tournament, where the USA rallied for late wins against Brazil and Russia to claim second place.
All three of the USA’s opponents are frequent foes at the competition. Brazil has appeared at every edition of the tournament since it assumed its current format in 2008, and also sent teams in 2006 and 2007. Portugal and Turkey have appeared at the competition four of ten times since 2008, tied with England for second-most all-time.
- The U.S. roster is made up of 22 players born in 2002 and two born in 2003.
- Forty-three players have appeared for the U-17 MNT in 2018, and eight more have the opportunity to earn first caps at the Friendlies, their first U-17 call-up: Masango Akale, Trace Alphin, Andre Luiz Costa, Cameron Dunbar, Sebastian Falsone, Jonathan Gomez, Ruben Hernandez and Alex Villanueva.
- Seven players return from last winter’s Nike International Friendlies: goalkeeper Damian Las, defenders Axel Alejandre, Mason Judge and Joseph Scally, midfielders Adam Saldana and Peter Stroud and forward Alfonso Ocampo Chavez.
- Sixteen clubs are represented on the roster, with three players coming from both LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC as well as two each from FC Dallas, New York City FC and North Carolina FC.
- Twenty-two of 24 players have spent at least one season in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, and 18 are currently competing in the Academy.
- Eight players earned Conference Best XI honors after the 2017-18 Academy season: Alejandre (Central), Kobe Hernandez (West), Judge (East), Las (Central), Giovanni Reyna (East), Saldana (West), Scally (East), Yow (East).
- Reyna was named Eastern Conference Player of the Year at the U-16/17 level after helping lead New York City FC U-18/19 to the Academy Championship.
- Scally also played a key role in New York City FC’s run to the U-18/19 Development Academy Championship in 2018. He’s the only player on the roster currently signed as an MLS Homegrown player.
- Ocampo-Chavez and Daniel Robles helped lead Seattle Sounders FC to the U-16/17 Academy Championship last summer.
- The pair both appeared for Seattle Sounders FC 2 in the United Soccer League this season. Kobe Hernandez and Saldana have also logged professional minutes with LA Galaxy II in the USL.
- Five players currently play for clubs abroad: Andre Luiz Costa (Rayo Vallecano/ESP), Ruben Hernandez (Club Leon/MEX), Judge (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Chituru Odunze (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN), Stroud (West Ham United/ENG), though Odunze and the Whitecaps compete in the Development Academy.
- Defender George Bello (Atlanta United FC) and midfielder Gianluca Busio (Sporting KC) were unavailable for this tournament as they continued to compete with their clubs’ first teams in the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.
- With 14 caps, Saldana enters the Friendlies as the roster’s most-experienced player. Alejandre, Stroud and Ocampo Chavez rank second with 12 caps each.
- Alejandre, Las and Saldana have appeared in all eight U-17 training camps/events this cycle, while Judge and Stroud have appeared in seven of eight.
- Ocampo-Chavez enters the Friendlies as the team’s leading scorer with five goals. Forward Griffin Yow has tallied twice in his first three U-17 appearances.
- Eight players return from the USA’s first appearance at the Concacaf U-15 Boys’ Championship in 2017: Alejandre, Judge, Las, Ocampo Chavez, Reyna, Saldana, Scally and Stroud.
- Twelve states are represented on the roster, with the most players (four) coming from California. Three players each come from New York and Washington, while two players were born internationally (Canada and Spain).