First time wins by the U.S. MNT over Mexico at the U20 and U17 age groups alongside a heartening tournament sweep in Italy by the U15 U.S. BNT indicates that things may finally be looking up for U.S. Youth Soccer men’s division after a recent fallow period.
The failure of the U23 group to qualify for the past two Olympic Games began the rot in the U.S. MNT youth ranks and with the U17’s missing out on the 2013 World Cup there was a sense that the program was somewhat adrift.
The 2015 U20 side that featured Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Emerson Hyndman, Kellyn Acosta, and Paul Arriola gave reason for hope with a strong effort before falling on penalty kicks to eventual champions Serbia in the quarterfinals.
But even with superstar in the making Christian Pulisic on hand the good vibes did not extend to that year’s U17 team as that group finished last at its World Cup in Chile, picking up just a single point in a 2-2 draw with the hosts.
But, as the saying goes, that was then, this is now.
Once again it was the U20 group that led the way as Tab Ramos’ side defeated Mexico on the road to a late February, early March run to a first-ever Confederation title for the Stars and Stripes at the U20 age group.
That win comes with a place at the U20 World Cup in South Korea, May 20-June 24.
There is still work to be done before the U17’s are assured of a spot in the World Cup this October in India but with last Wednesday’s 4-3 win over El Tri, the younger group has already matched their elders in chalking up a win over the team’s main rival, regardless of age group.
Of course, the CONCACAF U17 title is secondary to earning a place in India and with four berths at stake among the remaining six teams, the Americans have to like their chances.
That process starts on Wednesday, May 3rd when the U.S. begins the Classification Round against Honduras before playing Cuba two days later to close out the round. Mexico has landed in the tougher of the two groups and must contend with the home team, Panama, on Wednesday and then the Ticos on Friday.
The final will be played on Sunday, May 7th and while youth tournaments can be rife with surprises, another U.S.A. vs Mexico showdown would hardly qualify as a shocker.
Finally, the kids. Led by former MLS and Ajax player Dave Van Den Bergh the U.S. BNT claimed the championship of the Torneo Delle Nazioni defeating England 2-1 today (Monday, May 1) to complete an impressive performance at the Italian showcase.
On the road to the title, the youngest Yanks were too good for Slovenia (4-0), Russia (2-1), and Portugal (4-2). The championship winning goal versus England came from New York City FC Academy product Gio Reyna, son of NYCFC Director of Football Operations and longtime U.S. MNT captain Claudio Reyna.
It is always a balancing act between results and development when it comes to youth teams but if you believe that winning is a good habit to learn then these recent results have to be encouraging.