US young guns take aim

The USA have qualified for every instalment of the FIFA U-20 (previously U-19) World Cup and will be keen to keep up the trend as the CONCACAF qualifiers for Chile 2008 run from Tuesday 17 to 28 June in Mexico.

The Mexican hosts are placed in Group A alongside defending regional champions the USA, Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago. Group B will pit favourites Canada against Costa Rica, Jamaica and Nicaragua.

The Americans, who won the first FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship in Canada in 2002 and never finished lower than fourth, are currently in Park City, Utah to prepare for the high altitude that coach Tony DiCicco expects during the qualifiers in Puebla, Mexico.

"Dealing with altitude is no easy task and requires approximately three weeks of training at altitude to become totally acclimatised, which, of course, we don't have," said DiCicco, a FIFA Women's World Cup-winning coach with the senior USA team in 1999. "But for psychological as well as physiological reasons, we are going to Park City to train at almost 7000 feet. From zero to 5000 feet there is not much difference, but every 1000 feet above 5000 feet, the maximum oxygen intake is reduced by three per cent, which is considerable. To train at altitude is important for us and hopefully we can go to Mexico much more confident."

The top two finishers from each group will move on to the semi-finals on 25 and 28 June, with the two finalists and the third-place finisher moving on to represent CONCACAF at the world finals in Chile in November and December of this year.

The lucky New World trio will join up with hosts Chile, Brazil and Argentina, and Asian representatives Japan, China and Korea DPR. From Oceania, New Zealand will line up in Chile and UEFA will send France, Germany, England and Norway.

The fourth women's youth finals will consist of 16 teams.