CHICAGO – The U.S Under-20 Men’s national team Wednesday was drawn into Group F with Ecuador, Senegal and Saudi Arabia for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in the Korea Republic.
The Americans open group play against Ecuador May 22, followed by Senegal May 25 and Saudi Arabia May 28. The first two games will be played at Incheon Stadium in Incheon, while the final group encounter will be played at Daejeon World Cup Stadium in Daejeon.
“We are proud to have earned a group top seed for the 2017 U-20 World Cup,” U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos said in a statement. “As CONCACAF champions and 2015 U-20 World Cup quarterfinalists, we have put ourselves in a great position for this tournament. Our Youth National Team Program has been on an upward trend and we need to continue to push forward in [the] Korea Republic. This was a difficult draw, but we are ready for the challenge. Our plan is to treat each game like a final, so our preparation now shifts to Ecuador.”
The FIFA U-20 World Cup runs May 20-June 11 in six cities throughout South Korea: Cheonan, Daejeon, Incheon, Jeju, Jeonju and Suwon. Twenty-four countries will participate. The top two teams in each group, as well as the best four third-place teams, will advance to the Round of 16 on May 30, May 31 and June 1.
The championship and third-place matches take place Sunday, June 11, at the 42,655-capacity Suwon World Cup Stadium.
The U.S. enters the World Cup after winning the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship for the first time. The Americans finished 2-1-0 in the group stage, finishing second in Group B to Panama, to earn one of the six spots in the classification stage. In its two classification stage matches, the U-20 MNT defeated Mexico 1-0 and locked up a spot in the World Cup with a 2-1 victory against El Salvador behind a game-winner from midfielder Eryk Williamson. In the Final, the U.S. defeated Honduras, 5-3, in a penalty kick shootout after ending full time scoreless.
U.S. goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann, defenders Marlon Fossey and Justen Glad, and midfielders Erik Palmer-Brown and Brooks Lennon earned CONCACAF U-20 Championship Best XI honors. Klinsmann and Palmer-Brown received the Golden Glove and Golden Ball awards, respectively.
This is the 15th time that the USA has advanced to the U-20 FIFA World Cup (previously called the FIFA World Youth Championship). The USA’s best performance was a fourth-place finish at the seventh FIFA World Youth Championship in 1989 that included wins against East Germany and Iraq and was capped off by a 2-0 loss to Brazil in the third-place match in front of 65,000 spectators at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Most recently, at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup, the USA drew a difficult Group A that included host New Zealand, Myanmar and group winner Ukraine. The U.S. finished second with a 2-1-0 record and advanced to the knockout round. The U.S. defeated Columbia 1-0 in the Round of 16 before losing to eventual World Cup winner Serbia 6-5 on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals after a scoreless draw.
U-20 World Cup groups
Group A: Korea Republic (host), Guinea, Argentina, England
Group B: Venezuela, Germany, Vanuatu, Mexico
Group C: Zambia, Portugal, Iran, Costa Rica
Group D: South Africa, Japan, Italy, Uruguay
Group E: France, Honduras, Vietnam, New Zealand
Group F: Ecuador, USA, Saudi Arabia, Senegal
U.S. Group F schedule
May 22, 4 a.m. ET: Ecuador vs. USA; Incheon Stadium, Incheon
May 25, 7 a.m. ET: Senegal vs. USA; Incheon Stadium, Incheon
May 28, 5 a.m. ET: USA vs. Saudi Arabia; Daejeon World Cup Stadium, Daejeon
U.S.’s Group F foes
Ecuador: Ecuador finds itself in the U-20 World Cup for the third time and first since 2011. In 2011, the South American side tied for its best U-20 finish when it advanced to the Round of 16. In eight matches played during the 2001 and 2011 U-20 World Cups, Ecuador posted a 2-4-2 record.
Senegal: The African country makes its second U-20 World Cup appearance, its first coming in 2015 en route a 2-3-2 record. After advancing out of the group, Senegal continued its underdog run with a win in penalty kicks against Ukraine in the Round of 16, followed by a 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Uzbekistan. Senegal’s magical run came to an end in the semifinals, where it lost to eventual runner-up Brazil.
Saudi Arabia: The Middle Eastern team earned its eighth U-20 World Cup berth and first since 2011. The team’s best finish came in 2011, when they moved out of the group stage before falling 3-0 to Brazil in the Round of 16. In their seven tournament appearances since 1985, the Saudi Arabians have posted a 4-12-6 record in 22 matches.