2014 U.S. Soccer Young Male Athlete of the Year nominees Christian Pulisic and Haji Wright will lead the American team into the CONCACAF U17 Championship beginning this Friday in Honduras.
The two U17 stars finished behind Tottenham Hotspurs fullback DeAndre Yedlin for the honor, but the duo did more than enough to warrant the nominations. Wright led Richie Williams’ side in scoring in 2014, with 18 goals in 22 games, while Pulisic kicked in 17 goals and seven assists. The two will lead a 20 man roster that opens Group A play on Friday by taking on Cuba.
Four nations will qualify for the U17 World Cup to be held from October 17-November 8 in Chile. The Young Yanks will also face Trinidad and Tobago (March 2), Guatemala (March 5), Honduras (March 8), and Jamaica (March 11).
Group B will feature Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, Panama, Haiti, and St. Lucia, and four of the 12 teams will earn a trip to represent CONCACAF next fall in Chile.
Pulisic recently became the latest U.S. youth international to sign with a top European club, when he put pen to paper on a deal with Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund. Wright, who was formerly a part of the L.A. Galaxy youth set up is currently listed as unattached, although he has consistently been linked with Schalke.
This group compiled a 17-7-3 mark, while winning four tournaments in 2014 and will be expected to qualify handily for Chile. In fact, a failure to claim one of CONCACAF’s four spots in U17 World Cup would rightly be considered a grand failure. Williams need only look back to the criticism leveled at coach Tab Ramos when his U20 team advanced from the region’s U20 tournament in less than impressive fashion.
Here is the U17 roster:
GOALKEEPERS (2): William Pulisic (Richmond United), Kevin Silva (Players Development Academy)
DEFENDERS (7): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls Academy), Hugo Arellano (LA Galaxy Academy), Daniel Barbir (West Bromwich Albion), Tanner Dieterich (Real Salt Lake AZ), John Nelson (Internationals), Matthew Olosunde (New York Red Bulls Academy), Alexis Velela (San Diego Surf)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Eric Calvillo (Real So Cal), Luca de la Torre (Fulham), Thomas McCabe (Players Development Academy), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Alejandro Zendejas (FC Dallas)
FORWARDS (6): Pierre da Silva (Orlando City Academy), McKinze Gaines (Lonestar SC), Joe Gallardo (Monterrey), Josh Perez (Unattached), Brandon Vazquez (Club Tijuana), Haji Wright (Unattached)
Four countries from the CONCACAF region will directly qualify from this tournament for the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile. The Group A and B winners will clinch a berth for the World Cup and earn a spot in the CONCACAF U-17 Championship title match on March 15. The group’s second- and third-place teams will advance to a playoff stage. Those four teams will be seeded, with the No. 2 and 3 seeds playing in one playoff and the No. 1 and 4 seeds in the other playoff game, both taking place on March 15. The two playoff victors will earn the other two berths for the U-17 World Cup.