Senior Team Springboard: How the U-17 World Cup Helped Build the Current USMNT

While the goal of the U.S. Soccer Youth National Team program has always been to develop players for the full U.S. Men’s National Team, the last few MYNT cycles have left an indelible impact on the current senior squad. Half of the USA’s 2022 FIFA World Cup roster previously represented the red, white and blue at a youth World Cup, including 10 players at the U-17 level.

From the USA’s 17 prior appearances at the U-17 World Cup, an average of 3.5 players have gone on to play for the full USMNT, roughly 17 percent of each U-17 World Cup squad. The last three U-17 World Cup rosters have produced three of the four highest rates of players to go on to represent USMNT, with the potential for more to come. Eight have debuted from the 2015 U-17 World Cup in Chile, the most-ever for the U.S., and the pathway has seen remarkable success since the USA missed out on the 2013 U-17 World Cup.

U-17 World Cup Players Capped % of Players Capped Players Named to Senior WC Roster % Named to Senior WC Roster
2019 5 24% 2 10%
2017 7 33% 3 14%
2015 8 38% 4 19%
2013 – DNQ -- -- -- --
2011 2 10% 1 5%
2009 3 14% 0 0%
2007 2 10% 0 0%
2005 2 10% 2 10%
2003 4 20% 1 5%
2001 4 22% 1 6%
1999 5 28% 5 28%
1997 2 11% 0 0%
1995 2 11% 2 11%
1993 1 6% 1 6%
1991 4 22% 0 0%
1989 3 17% 1 6%
1987 2 11% 2 11%
1985 3 17% 1 6%
TOTAL 59 (3.5 Average) 17% 26 (1.5 Average) 7%

Ahead of the U-17 World Cup’s return following a four-year absence due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, here’s a look at how the last few cycles have built the current USMNT.


The 2019 U-17 World Cup squad featured the most professional experience of any U.S. roster at the tournament. Five players went on to make their senior USMNT debuts in the lead-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, all appearing in official competition, including World Cup qualifying and the Concacaf Gold Cup.

In three short years, Gio Reyna and Joe Scally went from the U-17 World Cup to international soccer’s biggest stage at Qatar 2022. Both products of New York City FC’s youth set-up in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, Reyna captained the USA in two of three U-17 WC matches before becoming one of the USMNT’s most dynamic attacking players. He has been instrumental in the USA claiming the first two Concacaf Nations League titles – scoring the opening goal against Mexico in the 2021 Final and registering assists on both goals in the 2-0 win against Canada in the 2023 championship game. Most recently, Reyna bagged his first international brace during the October international window vs. Ghana. Scally has earned seven caps since making his full team debut in June 2022 and the outside back played every minute for the U.S. U-17s in Brazil.

Ricardo Pepi made a memorable debut in 2022 World Cup qualifying at Honduras, scoring and adding two assists in a comeback 4-1 victory, the first of nine goals in his first 20 appearances for the USMNT. Coming out of the FC Dallas academy, he made two appearances in Brazil.

After developing at and earning an MLS Homegrown contract with Sporting Kansas City, Busio tied the record for the USA’s fastest goal scored at the U-17 World Cup with a third-minute tally in the tournament opener vs. Senegal. Most recently, the Venezia midfielder served as one of the captains for the U.S. Men’s Olympic Team during its cycle-opening friendlies in October. Bello played the USA’s second two matches in Brazil after rising through the ranks at Atlanta United FC.

INDIA 2017

Playing in front of record crowds in India, the 2017 U-17 World Cup squad was the final team to come from U.S. Soccer’s U-17 Residency Program at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Forward Tim Weah made history at the tournament, becoming the first U.S. player to net a hat trick in the knockout stage of a men’s FIFA World Cup tournament when he bagged three goals in the Round of 16 vs. Paraguay. He opened the scoring for the USMNT at Qatar 2022 vs. Wales, becoming the first U.S. player to tally in the U-17, U-20 and senior World Cups.

Forward Josh Sargent served as the team’s captain in India after playing up an age group earlier in the year at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup. He played all 450 minutes for the team in India and was called up to the senior team for the first time in November 2017 as the St. Louis Scott Gallagher product became the first player to be called up to the U-17, U-20 and full Men’s National Teams in the same year.

After making his debut for the U.S. U-17s midway through the cycle in October 2016, Sergiño Dest played four of five games in India. Since then, he’s become an electrifying player at outside back for the senior team.
Taylor Booth and Bryan Reynolds were the USA’s two youngest players in India. Part of the Real Salt Lake academy, Booth earned his first pair of USMNT caps earlier this year, while Reynolds came up in the FC Dallas system and netted his first international goal during this summer’s Gold Cup. Both were a part of the first U.S. Men’s Olympic Team training camp of the cycle in October. New York City FC’s first Homegrown signing, James Sands played every minute for the U-17s in India and the versatile defender helped the U.S. take home the 2021 Gold Cup.

CHILE 2015 

Two of the USMNT’s core players got their first taste of the world stage at Chile 2015 in forward Christian Pulisic and midfielder Tyler Adams.

Pulisic scored to help the U.S. earn its lone result of the group stage, a 2-2 draw against Croatia. Since his U-17 World Cup appearance, the PA Classics alum has become one of the USA’s most prolific young players ever, netting 28 goals in 64 caps already at age 25. At Qatar 2022, he netted the game-winning goal for the USA vs. IR Iran to advance to the knockout stage, becoming the third U.S. player to score in both the senior and U-17 World Cups.

After developing through the New York Red Bulls’ professional pathway, Adams appeared in all three U.S. matches in Chile and captained the red, white and blue at the senior World Cup last winter. He was the youngest captain at Qatar 2022 and the youngest U.S. captain since Walter Bahr at Brazil 1950 and earned 2022 U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year honors.
Luca de la Torre and Haji Wright also appeared in all three matches for the USA in Chile and made the 2022 FIFA World Cup squad. De la Torre played with San Diego youth clubs Nomads and San Diego Surf before starting his career abroad at Fulham in England. Since playing his way fully back into the USMNT picture during World Cup qualifying, he’s made 19 international appearances. Wright also hails from SoCal and made a late push for the Qatar 2022 roster, pulling a goal back for the U.S. against Netherlands in the Round of 16.
A pair of dual-national attackers represented the U.S. proudly at Chile 2015 before earning their first senior team caps this year in Brandon Vazquez and Alex Zendejas. Vazquez’s two goals led the USA at the 2015 U-17 World Cup and he’s since added four goals to his senior international account. Zendejas played all 270 minutes for the U.S. in Chile and has made seven appearances for the USMNT, all coming this year.

After coming up through the Philadelphia Union academy, Auston Trusty parlayed a breakout season with Birmingham City in the English Championship into a move to the English Premier League with Sheffield United and his first pair of senior USMNT appearances this March during Concacaf Nations League group play. Defender Matthew Olosunde earned his first cap under interim head coach Dave Sarachan in May 2018 vs. Bolivia.


While the last three U-17 World Cup cycles have helped build the current U.S. Men’s National Team, the impact of the 1999 U-17 World Cup squad is still unmatched. Five players went on to the senior USMNT, including legends Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, both National Soccer Hall of Famers. All five players that progressed to the full team made senior World Cup rosters and took the field at least 45 times for the USMNT.

The 1999 team finished fourth in New Zealand, the USA’s best-ever finish at the tournament. The competition marked the start of Donovan’s celebrated international career, winning the Golden Ball as the World Cup’s best player. He’d go on to play a starring role in some of the most iconic moments in U.S. Soccer history, including netting the second goal in the USA’s Dos a Cero victory against Mexico in the 2002 FIFA World Cup Round of 16, where he would win Best Young Player, and scoring the last-minute game winner against Algeria in the group stage of the 2010 World Cup to secure the Americans’ advancement. A sterling model of consistency and enduring high-level play, Beasley would become the only U.S. player to play in four FIFA World Cups (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014).
Current U.S. Soccer Vice President of Sporting Oguchi Onyewu was also a part of the squad before making the U.S. team for the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups. A pre-dreadlocked Kyle Beckerman took the field in New Zealand before representing the U.S. at the 2014 FIFA World Cup alongside forward Bobby Convey, who was a part of the 2006 World Cup squad.