The United States hold the enviable record of being the only team to have qualified for every single FIFA U-17 World Cup since its inception back in China in 1985. With a focus on youth development and overall organisation, the US Soccer Federation has created something of a dynasty at junior level, with full-time residency camps making a lean, mean fighting unit out of the young lads. Their best finish in the competition came in New Zealand in 1999, when, led by current senior standouts Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, the Americans finished fourth, losing in the semi-finals on penalties. Last time out, at Korea 2007, the USA lost to Germany in the round of 16.
The Americans are led by ambitious young coach Wilmer Cabrera, who lined up for Colombia on 48 separate occasions as a player. He played at two FIFA World Cups in the 1990s and four times participated for Colombia at the Copa America. He was appointed head coach of the USA U-17s in October of 2007, after assisting at U-18 level and working in a variety of capacities for Major League Soccer. He led a standout squad, including ace striker Jack McInerny, to finish top of their group in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in Tijuana, Mexico. After the Americans beat Honduras, Cuba and Canada, scoring 12 goals and conceding two, the knockout stages of the tournament were cancelled due to the outbreak of so-called Swine Flu in Mexico.
The Americans will be keen on turning their ever-presence at the U-17 finals into results in Nigeria. With quality in every position, the coach is keen on his side's chances and relishing putting his lads up against the world's best. "We are very happy that we qualified. That was our objective from the very beginning. Qualifying is something we had to do. Our Under-17 program has been developing young players in the United States and we have qualified for every World Cup. We wanted to do nothing less than qualify," the coach said.
Facts and figures
Tim Howard (1995), Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley (1999), Eddie Johnson (2001), Freddy Adu (2003, Jozy Altidore (2005)
Jack McInerny, (forward), Earl Edwards (goalkeeper)
3 wins, 0 losses, 12 goals scored and 2 conceded
The numbers game
12 -The number of FIFA U-17 World Cup finals the United States have taken part in - most among any country in the world.