USA
© AFP

The past
The United States hold pride of place in the brief history of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. Never having finished out of the top four, they won the first instalment of what was then known as the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship in 2002 after overcoming hosts Canada in extra time. In Thailand 2004, the Americans finished third before rounding their worst performance to date in Russia in 2006, where they finished fourth. They rebounded, however, and last time out in Chile in 2008 they were crowned champions for a second time.

The present
The Americans arrive in Germany with a fine qualifying run under their belts after sweeping aside all comers in Guatemala earlier in the year, and with one of the most dominant junior women’s players currently kicking a ball. Veteran striker Sydney Leroux is the star of Jill Ellis’ reigning world champions. In addition to finishing top scorer in CONCACAF qualifying, Germany 2010 will be her second  straight U-20 finals as only two years ago in Chile she earned top scorer and top player honours as her USA surged to the title.

The future
In addition to coming into the competition as holders, the United States – with a core of players returning from the side that hoisted the trophy in Chile - are perennial favourites. Even so, coach Ellis is aware her team need to improve before the finals get underway on German soil. “I think transition is an area we need to get better,” she said after beating Mexico for the regional title. “I’ve been really trying to instil in the players defending set pieces and dropping back when we lose the ball, so our ability to go from defending to attacking and vice-versa is something we can get better at for sure.”

Facts and figures
Former stars
Lori Chalupny, Heither O'Reilly, Angie Woznuk (2002), Megan Rapinoe, Amy Rodriguez (2004), Tobin Heath (2006), Sydney Leroux and Alyssa Naeher (2008)

Key players
Sydney Leroux (striker), Teresa Noyola (midfielder, Bianca Henninger (goalkeeper)

Qualifying statistics
The USA roared through to the group stages of the qualifying competition in Guatemala. Scoring 12 goals, they conceded just one in their first three matches.

The numbers game
0 - the number of times the United States have finished lower than fourth place at a FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup.