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U.S. Under-17 MNT falls to Honduras, will miss first U-17 World Cup

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Death, taxes and the United States qualifying for the Under-17 World Cup. There are just some things you could always expect.

That isn’t the case anymore.

After qualifying for 15 straight Under-17 World Cups, every World Cup ever held in the age group, the U.S. went into Sunday’s CONCACAF quarterfinal vs. Honduras fully expected to come away with the victory and the ticket to the World Cup that came along with it.

Honduras had other plans.

The Catrachos rallied to break a 1-1 tie with a pair of second-half goals, including a stunning free kick goal in the 68th minute, to post a 3-1 victory over the United States.

On Sunday, the Americans never quite took take over a match they were expected to win, and Honduras took the lead first on a long-range strike in the 42nd minute. That goal appeared to provide a wake-up goal, as Joel Sonora responded just two minutes later with his own long-distance finish to leave the match tied heading into halftime.

The U.S. never got closer to the victory they so desperately needed.

Honduras forward Alberto Elis raced onto a through-pass, out-pacing U.S. defender Tommy Redding to finish off the goal and give the Central Americans the momentum. Before the U.S. could respond again, Honduran Kevin Alvarez struck a beautiful free kick past U.S. goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell to make the score 3-1 and deflate the U.S. team, which never really threatened after that.

The stunning defeat not only eliminated the Americans from World Cup qualifying, it also calls into questions the future of the U.S. Under-17 National Team program, and the Residency Program that has helped make up the squad for he better part of the past 14 years.

U.S. head coach Richie Williams will be facing considerable scrutiny for his team’s failed mission, particularly given the limited role given to highly-regarded midfielder Junior Flores, who started just one of the team’s three matches and failed to make an appearance in the decisive loss to Honduras.

What did you think of the match? Disappointed with how the Americans played? Impressed by Honduras? Think Richie Williams is to blame for the loss, or think  it was just a matter of time before a U.S. Under-17 team fell in a World Cup qualifying tournament?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Pre-pubescent U17s? I don’t know what tournaments you’ve been watching, but at this level from U13 up they are already all post pubescent man-children! …and that is part of the problem. Messi would never be selected as a youth prodigy in this country. All the best DA teams from NYRB on have physical monsters up top and on the back line. We need football players!

  2. If you do the rounds at Academy Showcase events and playoffs you will see many shockingly good US players that are not in Bradenton, but as noted Bradenton is relic that will be replaced and only has one more year on its contract with USSF in any case.

    There seems to be an essential problem at the younger ages that needs to fixed and a residency problem that will probably take care of itself thru competition for players.

    – Younger ages in US play too many games from U6 to U12. This is driven by leagues, tournaments, and game driven parents that run many Club Boards. Whether for profit or ‘competition’ reasons many kids play as many games as train in a week, even in top leagues like NPL where the same kids are still in USYS Natl League etc. Rest of planet is focused on technical development at that age and games, if any, are not paramount as in the case here. USSoccer has to stop recommending and start demanding proper behavior in this area in exchange for sanctioning they provide for that to change. Today only in the Academy do they restrict the tendency to play too many games. Everywhere else they actually encourage it as with liberal US Club rules with guesting etc. A kid can play 60 games in a year and burn out physically and mentally before he even hits 16.

    – MLS teams are moving toward full Residency as with RSL program or a hybrid with local HS program integration with early morning sessions, transportation, nutrition, etc all being worked into the programs. FC Dallas and Montreal are leaders and others will follow as that gains success, as one would expect.

    There are allot of people still invested in the ‘old’, but that wall will come down and new will be better but it is only really just getting started and the prior regime ala Williams still have one foot in the door. Look to Ramos and other new comers to do better.

    • I don’t buy it, how are 20 local teams each with a mediocre or perhaps bad record of producing signable players for MLS level — who have often achieved mediocre results vis a vis ordinary club teams — superior to even a halfworking unified national residency that routinely produces youth NTers and many of our senior NTers and many draft picks and international signees a year?

      I think the problem is Williams plus a 433. We should have some Ajax types or at least Europeans over here inculcating a 433 if that’s the idea. But what does Williams know from a 433? All he ever did was hustle.

      And if there are cohesion problems with Bradenton just try moving the decentralized approach down from the older age groups and see how well a dis-organized bunch culled from academies plays. I mean, according to what people are saying, the core of Honduras was kids who play together for one pro team’s system.

      • “I don’t buy it, how are 20 local teams each with a mediocre or perhaps bad record of producing signable players for MLS level — who have often achieved mediocre results vis a vis ordinary club teams ”

        Simple … because the REAL Academy training regime was just introduced a couple of years ago on a national level. It targets much younger ages. It’s going to take years before we begin to see the fruits.

      • To continue … I do agree with many points that you bring up with respect to who is picked and who is doing the picking. An organized academy system will work … the point being that it has to be organized and the academies need to do a ton of leg work to bring in the kids and get them trained properly at a young age.

        A VERY good pt you bring up is the poor defending in general as we beginto focus on more technical players. Quite frankly, I’ve been told by 4 of my friends that all coach college teams that 1 vs 1 defending by US players is downright shocking right now. In fact, most of the defenders that they bring in are from overseas,

  3. One observation: The US-u17s got beat by the core of Olympia’s reserve team.

    Hopefully MLS clubs will step up next season and field full reserve teams in the USL Pro. A full pro link from the academy to the first team is needed. If MLS had 10 clubs with USL reserve teams signing their top academy players to pro contracts and letting them PLAY (not this bs 10 game reserve league) we would have 20-30 full pro players to pick from at the u-17 u20 levels every cycle. A tiny country with one good club just took us out. It’s time to evolve our pyramid a bit in order to keep up.

    • Right on target.

      -Youngers get technical focus, reduce games.
      – Mid age 15-18s get residency or near residency hybrid residency at MLS clubs.
      – Best matriculate to Second Division (USL Pro) and then First teams or go to other counties to do same.
      – College soccer not relied upon over time, Pro clubs themselves are the top feeder.

      Many would still play DA for MLS and non MLS clubs and a go to play college of course, and some would get drafted to play for a few years, but best on every team, the difference makers and standouts would have come up thru a system that is seeing building blocks being put in place.

      We can have it both ways, outstanding DA/Natl Team players going Pro early as we see in Hockey for instance and the rest leveraging it to go to college. It will take time but the early adopters are already there and their success will breed followers if they are not already planning to do so. Economics are not super compelling yet for those initiatives, but as salaries and incentives increase the movement in that direction will gain pace.

  4. Hmmmm. Let’s see.

    I agree with the anti-433 comments, I think it is a very hard formation to play well, defensively vulnerable, hard to control a game’s flow. You also need the people to play it.

    I’m concerned that this is a residency team, essentially, that got beat. However, those advocating turning this over to the domestic club teams are nuts. The 18 year old FIFA rule bars us from relying on foreign academies much. Many of the domestic academies can’t beat local club powerhouses from the traditional system. France, England, and a lot of the powers use their own residencies, eg, Clairefontaine. I mean, do you really think sending a kid to HS and the Dynamo Academy is superior to rigorous school and soccer in Bradenton with not just some decent local kids willing to play outside of club, but the national creme of the crop? I see the issue in this kind of failure as, who’s picking and who did they pick. Because there is no way with our resources plus a de facto national academy (why defer to local ones when you have a national one) that we should not be making it at U17. The drop off should occur in U18-U22 as our muddled transition process bogs down and the Central American/Mexican teams field full professionals from more fully realized age group teams for pro clubs.

    I have a basic issue with people talking about how well the backs can pass when they apparently can’t defend. I don’t think anyone cares how well you can pass when you’re guarding Chicharito. I think some people are forgetting that historically our advantage has been physical, controlled, athletic play, and I’m not sure if it’s competitively advantageous to hand away those advantages to try and play finesse ball that doesn’t seem to be effective enough for many of our teams to qualify. I know the sales pitch is our players will be even better, but I feel like I’m witnessing cross-board competitive deterioration. We’re falling back to the peloton trying to play in an ill-suited style.

  5. The most important aspect is to see if there are truly any players that stand out. On the US squad, there were 3-4 players that are clearly head and shoulders above the rest … technically sound and capable of making it overseas. In each age group, this is what we need to see so that the eventual pool of players at the senior level is comprised of topnotch players.

    As far as the actual game, the US outplayed Honduras .. no doubt. I don’t need to add anything about Williams … shocking.

    I’m getting sick of “everyone” wanting to play 4-3-3 and not having a clue of how to play it. It’s NOT easy. Barca makes it look easy because their players are trained from a young age.

    Not sure what the point of Residency is with the Developmental Academies in place. Agree with SoccerInUs for the most part.

    One last point, the US is beginning to develop some truly outstanding technical players. It’s “the rest” of the group that’s the problem. Half of last night’s squad could have been replaced with ease by players from good club teams around the country. The good news … year by year … we are slowly growing our pool of exceptional talent. Just gonna take time.

  6. I thought that we looked quite good at times when knocking the ball around. We started to look bad when it came to getting shots off all the possession. That’s where it broke down on attack… when we got near the goal area.

    On defense, we just lost our men too much and Honduras burned us for it

    As for Flores, I saw him in the last game and wasn’t that impressed. He didn’t really stand out in my eyes. Even in that game we had trouble generating shots

  7. The reality is that we are not pay to play in most areas for skilled players.

    Top players are invited to play for free by local rivals across the country, and have been for a while. That makes a player’s current club or the invitor offer free play. Now Academies MLS and the rest are going younger with U14s starting next year and the pressure will be on even younger ages for them to offer free play. Many are fee free programming today from U10 or U12 and USSF is insisting that more and more of them move in that direction. In fact one of the grades in the Academy grading system is based entirely on cost to players and makes up about 20% of the score. Look at the performance of pay to play Academies versus paying, the trend is clear where the best players are being attracted. I would not be surprised to see it as a requirement of being a DA club in the future and that will move the marginal clubs to NPL or similar and life will go on.

    If we checked the Boys U15 team you would be pressed to find a single player that has paid to play since his rec fee in U very little if ever. In Europe there are many youth and amateur clubs that charge to play, and then of course the Pro teams offer fee free for top kids they scout at very young ages where they then play few games and focus on technical development. (Another US issue) The same has almost come to be here, better players are recruited into top Academy MLS and non MLS clubs, some of those with foreign Pro team sponsorship to help fund the top teams from younger on up.

    More than anything the lack of success is probably due to better overall play from teams like Honduras with 6 Reserve Team players from pro teams on the field that have the mental toughness and have played day in day out against tougher, older competition, and a style of play that is not nearly as open or creative as what we are running into. It should be no shocker that our only goal and arguably best player was Senora who is at Bocas Juniors, although Rubin and Moore played pretty well too and deserve a tip of the hat.

    We will get there, we are just at a transition point from a centralized to distributed player development system. It’s a slow, tidal process, but it will come in. Don’t panic just yet.

  8. I wouldn’t get too excited about this either way. US lost one game. Unfortunately these tournaments come down to needing to win one game in order to qualify. Overall, this U17 team had impressive results and there’s definately some great prospects for the future. That being said, Richie Williams did an awful job with Flores and pulling off Sonora.

  9. Dumb to get in a big uproar about youth teams. In one off do or die games anything can happen. Hence why CONCACAF went to that format in the mid 2000’s. These youth cycles happen every other year which means that a new cycle will be starting up this summer. People need to chill. Missing one U-17 WC is not a huge deal.

    Most of these kids won’t ever put an a senior USMNT jersey anyway.

    But I will say that Residency is a dinosaur now. I have stated for awhile that residency stunts development, and creates a smaller player pool to choose from. It makes no sense to take kids out of thier MLS/ USSF/Europe/Mexican/South American pro environment academies where they play against tough competition every week, and put them them in residency where they only play against eachother and very few youth teams a year. It’s probably time to get rid of residency.

    Pretty telling that the best player on the field for the U-17’s last night was not a residency player. Sonora is a Boca Juniors academy product.

  10. I like Richie but he needs to explain the use (or non-use) of Flores. If this cost him his job, so be it. Houduras knocked us out from the Olympics so I’m not totally suprised by the result. 2 of the Hounduran goals as well as the US goal were great shots, have to give credit where credit is due

  11. I know that someone said brought this up in an earlier thread, but isn’t the failure to qualify for these youth cups one hell of an indictment on the pay-to-play system that we have in this country?

    When you price out a lot of players, you fail. When you focus more on a system than on creativity on the field, you fail.

  12. Either the rest of CONCACAF is getting better or our youth are getting worst. Either way, it’s not that big of a deal. These are just a bunch of kids. 3/4 of them will never see the senior squad.

  13. I think a lot of people are missing the point of the youth tournaments and why we should “care” about them. These tournaments are a great opportunity for clubs to evaluate players to bring in to their organizations.

    Perhaps as the quality of MLS continues to increase, this will be less of an issue as American youth players play together and develop chemistry from a younger age instead of always having to play in a competitive pool of foreign players. It’s no accident that Spain is enjoying a dominant span while largely pulling players from two teams in its domestic league

  14. Can’t wait (sarcasm) to read the Paul Gardner column on this one. I find it a bit funny that for 20 years Paul has written the same article 5 times a year… USSF overlooks Latino players. If we just had Latino players we would be so much better, blah, blah blah. I don’t necessarily disagree with his basic point but find it laughable over the years that his love for Latin players has made him totally dismissive of some obviously talented Anglo and African American players. While we didn’t always do well on the big stage, we always managed to quality from CONCACAF with the obviously inferior players. Now recently we have added significantly more Latino players to the mix… and we are struggling to even qualify for tournaments (last U20 as an exception).

    • what the US has “achieved” in CONCACAF was bunkering and countering, saying that the USMNT was the class of CONCACAF is completely wrong.

      • Nowhere did I say the US was the class of CONCACAF, not sure why your comment was in response to mine. I was simply making the observation that we have typically always qualified for age group competitions in the past while recently we have not… with way more Latin players than ever before.

        Also to be fair, many teams have employed what you call the bunker and counter mentality against the US.

  15. Many of the teams in these youth world cups do nothing in senior years. You guys need to relax. Notice that in europe Spain did not qualify for 2011. Guess their youth are doomed and no good.

    We dont get it here in the states. We may never get it.

  16. Actually for much of the game, the US was the better team. They played calmly out of the back and defensively were beaten by to fantastic kicks and an outstanding pass. The US repeatedly strung together long periods of possession and took a lot of shots. Finishing was a big problem and so was control in tight spaces close to goal.
    If the problem is that Williams failed to play one guy, that is pretty much unknowable. If Flores is that much better than the other players, it would be pretty obvious, Flores might be good, but it is unlikely he is that much better.
    The problem is not national team coaching, but the coaching and the games these guys were in for the last 10 years. Anyone who has paid attention knows that the standard of soccer played in youth games throughout the country has improved enormously in the last 25 years. The greatest improvements took place (at least in NJ) over 15 years ago, but the average has continued to improve up to now. However, while the average level has improved a lot, I am not so sure about the quality of the best players. As teams have become better, it has become harder for outstanding players to take chances and be creative and that is not simply because coaches won’t allow it, but because it is simply not the way the best teams play. (Many of the “best” youth teams, like our U-17s, string together passes well enough, but too often fail to attack quickly and do not seem to understand when to take risks and when not to; the result is they seldom venture out of their safety zone, so do not exercise any creativity.)

  17. One bright spot… From what I saw in this tournament, Joel Sonora is the most gifted US youth player I’ve seen since Landon Donovan played for the U-17s. Exceptional ball skills, passing, movement off the ball and a great shot! I can’t even believe he was pulled off the field when we needed goals. Maybe I just dreamed it. His father, Diego, is probably telling him, “You are NEVER going to play for these idiotic American coaches again. You are playng for Argentina!!!!” End of discussion!
    Richie Williams can’t pack his bags fast enough. These talented kids deserve real coaches!

  18. Ives can you please address the state of our youth teams/system in the next podcast. I have so many comments/questions that cannot possibly go into one comment. What are some of the things our youth system can do better? Overhaul? With Mexicos youth system apparently thriving, I’m starting to get envious and worried. Please address the US youth system in your next podcast.

  19. I started getting the feeling about 30 minutes in that this was going to end this way. Another US youth team who lack aggression going forward. Way too deliberate and slow. It felt like a team that expected to win, but didn’t want to work for it. Compared to the U-20 who pushed the tempo and attacked in waves, this team was happy to sit back and push the ball around the perimeter giving Honduras every chance to get men behind the ball.

    I think this is actually a symptom of the residence program. These guys get handpicked as the elite and then get to live together for 12-18 months patting each other on the back about how great they are. And then they walk into a tournament like this thinking everyone’s going to lay down for them. Props to Honduras they attacked more and it paid off.

  20. People need to learn to refer to Richie Williams as ABMOD(ankle biting midget of death) and once you begin referring to him as such you will understand why he coaches the way he does. The way he played the game is the antithesis of where JK wants the senior team going. He was Stephen lenhardt but only 5’4″ tall.

  21. Bradenton has long since passed its usefulness. I know someone who went there and he readily admitted it was filled with kids whose parents had money. We’re at a stage now where a decentralization of youth talent is needed. We need the clubs to get better at their academy development and for USSF to invest. That’s the way forward for youth soccer. Not picking a group of kids, taking them to Florida and forcing them down our throat.

    Who cares about the u17s? More than half of them won’t develop into good players or leave the sport in a few years. We’ve lost nothing and gained nothing.

    • I agree that development should be done by the MLS teams. We need more people to support MLS (going to games, watching on TV, buying jerseys) so the teams in the league can spend more on their academies.

      Unfortunately the kids that often have the most passion for the sport and play it everyday can’t afford to play on club teams that are filled with middle/upper class kids. That is why it is so important that we we have many pro teams do the development.

    • I think you’re talking about IMG, which costs around $80,000/yr. I believe the Bradenton U17 residency program is free

      • He went to Brandenton. This was over eight years ago now.

        The money wasn’t so much for paying to go there, but the fact that our youth soccer system and scouting reflects those who have money. In order to get scouted you had to play travel or the higher tiers, and in order to get there you had to have money to pay to be on those teams.

        The odds of a kid playing in the park and getting scouted to a development program were slim to none. Now those odds are merely slim.

  22. Apparently a number of USYNT players have been smearing Richie on Twitter tonight saying he’s an awful coach and karma for all the poor personnel decisions he’s made.

    Oh, and Junior Flores sister tweeted this before deleting it.

    “Kimberly Flores ‏@Gissel_Flo 4h
    I blame Richie for this loss, not the players #sorrynotsorry”

  23. One bright spot… From what I saw in this tournament, Joel Sonora is the most gifted US youth player I’ve seen since Landon Donovan played for the U-17s. Exceptional ball skills, passing, movement off the ball and a great shot! I can’t even believe he was pulled off the field when we needed goals. Maybe I just dreamed it. His father, Diego, is probably telling him, “You are NEVER going to play for these idiotic American coaches again. You are playng for Argentina!!!!” End of discussion!
    Richie Williams can’t pack his bags fast enough. These talented kids deserve real coaches!

  24. SACK Richie Williams!! no JUnior Flores n sub out JOEL SONORA our best midfielder in the game who score our only goal,,,we where un prepare n out coach by honduras coach…. So Sad i still cant believe he didnt put in JUNIOR FLORES n sub out J SONORA….my god

  25. I just want to reiterate the fact that Junior Flores–our best player on a professional contract with Dortmund in the Bundesliga sat on the bench the entire game for Bradenton kids.

    • I may be mistaken but isn’t he at this moment unattached? Which would explain his inability to complete a full tournament. Yes, he’s going to Germany, but I thought I read somewhere that he’s just playing for a regular youth team as he waits for the summer.

      Maybe it was a case of picking a player based on reputation only to realize he’s physically not ready. Didn’t see any games so I don’t know how well he played.

      • Everyone I’ve spoken too–and from what I’ve read from media figures and commentators during the game–is that people were shocked to see Flores not start, let alone play period.

      • Josh, Junior Flores has a four year contract with Dortmund, which takes effect when he turns 18. I don’t remember exactly, but I read somewhere that there are some restrictions in Germany in terms of how young foreign players could be before they can be signed to a professional contract and Dortmund really wanted him so they had to structure his contract creatively.

      • What are you talking about?

        Flores is at Bradenton like the rest (minus Sonora). He is listed as unattached simply because he can’t legally sign with Dortmund until he turns 18. Rubio Rubin is also listed as unattached now instead of as Timbers academy, possibly because he is also signing somewhere.

  26. Thankfully we have some players that were coached by real coaches overseas and Mexico in the U 20 team. They might have a chance .

    • I blame the USSF for putting JK in charge of the whole show. What happens? We fail to qualify for the Olympics and the U17 WC for the first time ever. Coincidence?

      • Seriously, Klinsmann must wear a Teflon tracksuit given the lengths people go to in not assigning him blame for anything.

  27. Oh, Richie Williams was SOOOOOOO much to blame for this. Wow. What an awful, pathetic display of coaching.

    Our best F*D)FU&E*(PR player sat on the bench.

    Our second best player was taken off for no reason other than to play more boot ball.

    Get bent Williams. Joke.

    • Totally agree. It is the coach and his staff who select and prepare the players. The buck stop there. The general population of the US is 100x greater than Honduras and considering how much youth soccer is played in this country, how many academies, training centers, etc., there are, the talent pool in US soccer is deeper than it’s ever been.
      It is not hard to scout opposing teams, yet the US looked totally unprepared, even surprised at times.

      I was hoping that when JK sacked the existing youth coaches and brought in fresh ideas and coaching talent. I was hoping for a turnaround from the failures past.

      Well we’ve lost the U-23 Olympic Qualif. We got into the U-20,, and things looked better, and now this setback.

      I think that the powers that be in the USSF and JK’s own technical staff need to so some soul searching look a little deeper. Perhaps going away from American coaches who sometimes appear tactically naive, and bring in some experience European Youth Coaches, amy be the way we can turn around an American Youth coaching regime that has lost it;s way.

      • Tab Ramos was JK’s first real coaching selection.

        Richie Williams is a Bradenton guy. He is an ODP nightmare. He is the problem and has been around much longer than Klinsmann.

      • Ramos was a great selection. Didn’t know he was JK’s pick. Puts action to JK’s talk about changing the culture. Williams was business as usual for US development.

      • Yeah.

        Ramos was brought in as an assistant coach for the senior team originally under JK, and what it looks like to me was that JK was getting a feel for existing coaches to see if any could take over a youth team and make the philosophy happen.

        Soon after JK and Gulati announced that Ramos was taking over the young guys.

      • Yeah….NO! Williams, Porter, and Ramos were all hired in Oct 2012. Klinsmann had been in charge for 4 months. You’ve been ripping Williams on this board for 12 hours now and your facts seem a bit lacking. Did you really watch the game? Who is a better coach than Richie Williams? Who would you hire?

      • ODP is certainly a problem…the way the national academy players is chosen is a complete joke… We don’t scout kids as they play for their respective club teams.. we dump a pool of players that we think are the best into a 4 day camp and cherry pick… there is no actual footage of a guy who is familiar with his teammates. We need to be scouting the U16 matches across the country to find the true talent, not 4 day evaluations with guys that are stud athletes but little else…

      • Wrong, Caleb Porter was Klinsmann’s first coaching decision, we were told Klinsmann was given the bigger role he demanded, Porter would play Klinsmann’s style, etc.
        And then Porter screwed things up FAR WORSE than even Richie Williams: third place in the weakest group, finishing behind Canada and El Salvador. And those games were in Nashville not Panama.

      • Good post.

        For me at least, it’s not the results so much that matter (especially at the u17 level), it’s the way they played and some of the coaching/tactical decisions. World of difference between this loss/Williams’ coaching decisions and Tab Ramos’ in the u20 loss to Mexico. Results are important, but for youth squads development and creating the right culture should be the main focus.

      • The major mistake made by JK was not replacing the entire coaching staff. It was that he left the entire scouting staff in place. The scouting system is a major weakness for the US. They pick the boot ball players who have physically matured at U14 and put them into the pool the coaches select from. Then ‘most’ coaches want to play a possession style game like the current U20s, without the players to do it. They have to stop putting former National team players in charge, as they are part of the problem not the solution.

  28. Extremely disappointing and worrisome. How many junior events will we fail to qualify for before the same crop of players fails to get us to a World Cup? What happened to “soccer in the United States is growing and development is getting better?”

      • yeah seriously. U-17s?? Some of these guys haven’t even had a growth spurt/voice change. I find it hard to evaluate a prepubescent team. And Honduras is a formidable competitor. Youth teams from top futbol countries often don’t do that well.

        Not concerned at all. Silly to freak out about such a young team.

      • its getting to the point that we are going to have u-3 tournaments and start freaking out if they lose.

      • Already happening. My three yr. old’s coach couldn’t handle the pressure of our state U4 tournament, played the wrong guys, and we got trounced by our arch rivals, the Kinder Slammers. So, because of his screw ups, THEY get to go the US Club Soccer nationals, and we have to stay home and play in some garbage AYSO tournament. Talk about PO’d parents.

      • It’s not just that. I realize that they’re young, and I’m usually argue against taking results or performances from kids in this age group too seriously. I realize that this is youth soccer, and if we’re lucky, 5 of these kids will pan out as pros, and 1 might reach the senior team. But I’m not worried about 1 result. I’m worried about consistent failures of the US youth development regime to qualify teams out of a (comparatively) weak region that we’ve had success in in the past. Sure, other teams might be catching up or improving as well, but with the interest and resources at this country’s disposal, there’s no way we shouldn’t at least be improving at the same rate (unless you’re going to make a diminishing returns argument, but I really don’t think we have plateaued as a soccer country.)

        Long story short, is this result the end of the world? No, and I wasn’t saying that it was. But, in the context of several other failures of youth teams to qualify for major tournaments, is it worrying? You bet.

      • Right. I see what you’re saying about our downward trend in the region due to our inability to qualify in multiple age groups. I still think it’s too early to tell though, we’ll see what happens as these “failures” mature.

        If anything, it shows that CONCACAF is an increasing force of a region. Looking forward to a more competitive future.

      • It is concerning when you include this failure with the u-23 and u-20 (previous edition). Only thing left to not qualify (again) is the World Cup.

      • robo johnson: “id like to see how the u-20s in the wc do before i start to freak out… i dunno its hard to criticize 16 year olds”

        jones: “yeah seriously. U-17s?? …Not concerned at all. Silly to freak out about such a young team.”

        Here’s the thing: 2011: U-20 did not qualify for first time since 1995. 2012: U-23 did not qualify for second time in three cycles. 2013: U-17 did not qualify for first time in its history. We have qualified for one tournament out of four in the last three years.

        This is not a fluke to dismiss, it’s a pattern.

        The last tournament that any USYNT has seen was the 2010 World Cup… at home from their couches.

      • i agree that it is a concern about the failures in other youth tourney’s.. i didnt see the u-17 games so you guys would no more than me.. i was very impressed by this years u-20’s.. again if they perform poorly in june, i will really worry.. until then i’ll be optimistic but i understand concerns…

    • Honestly – I don’t judge our future much at all by youth tournaments. You look at these teams, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany, etc. A lot of the players end up playing twice for the national team, if they even ever do.

      Predicting our NT based on YT is silly, especially with a large country like us (and others). Plus a national team is made of a wide age range (Figo and Ronaldo, Riquelme and Messi, Ballack and Podalski, Donovan and McBride, etc)

      Williams may need to go, maybe not. My main point is I don’t believe our YNT are vital parts of our player development. I think they are good, but the MLS Academies, and professional opportunities and finding minutes as a young pro are far more important (in my mind).

      I like the U-23s, but younger then that and it is hard to judge what we’ll be like.

      • Failure at youth tournements absolutely DOES NOT reflect on the senior team in any way. The following teams failed to qualify for the last 2 U20 tourneys, the last olympics, and 1 of the last two U17s (not all federations done). Germany, Italy, Holland. Brazil and Argentina failed to qualify for U20s and may miss out on U17s this time around. Spain and Portugal will miss out on their 2nd consecutive U17 cup and both missed the olympics too. Those teams are all doing just fine. Teams like Uzbekistan, Mali, Nigeria do great at the youth level and have done nothing yet. No correlation at all

      • Nigeria and Ghana, the best performing teams at the youth level in Africa, actually have done pretty well in WCs. Ghana made it to the quarterfinals in the last WC and was eliminated when Suarez stopped the ball on the line with his hand. Otherwise they would be semifinalists and who knows what would have happened.
        Argentina and Brazil’s u20’s are facing possibly the most talented u20 squads of the last 20 years in the Conmebol region. Colombia’s, Chile’s and Paraguay’s squads are ridiculously good and either one could take the tournament. Uruguay’s team were finalists in the last u17 WC and lost the title to Mexico playing them at the Azteca.
        The Euro zone at the youth level is extremely competitive. Yes, Germany, Italy and Holland missed out on the u20s. But only because England, France, Portugal and Spain qualified instead.
        Oh, and Uzbekistan is first in the qualifiers out of Asia ahead of South Korea, a team that traditionally makes it to the WC.
        Therefore, everything that you have pointed out only serves to show that there is more and more competition, even at the youth levels, in world soccer. Those teams that do well in their youth development are reaping benefits at the senior squad level. With only one WC champion every four years I don’t think that the only metric for success should be whether the team that performed well at the youth level wins a WC within 5 years. But if those countries can build depth and have more and more players represented in the top leagues, that will only mean that eventually those teams will get closer to doing something important. Just look at Spain.

      • correlation does not mean causation right? Yes there are strong youth teams, but look at the players playing for these youth teams- then look at if they ever went on to play for the national team?

        I am not saying there isn’t some level of correlation. I believe it is a spurious correlation. I would hope that a massive soccer country and culture like Spain would have a decent YNT. But if those players aren’t going on to see the field for the full national team, why do we think YNT teams are such important indicators?

      • For which teams? Let’s look at two teams from 2010, Spain and Ghana, to see whether your point holds water. These are two teams who have demonstrated a focus on developing youth talent and allowing them the opportunity to move up the ranks, but also are at the different extremes regarding local league opportunities for development.

        Spanish WC winning team players who played in Spanish youth squads: Iker Casillas, Raul Albiol, Gerard Pique, Carlos Marchena, Carles Puyol, David Villa, Fernando Torres, Fabregas, Juan Mata, Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. (The full XI team)

        Ghana 2010 squad who were youth level players: Derek Boateng, Asamoah Gyan, John Mensah, Stephen Appiah, Sulley Muntari, Jonathan Mensah, Dominic Adiyiah and Quincy Owusu (who actually played in the dutch youth teams, but youth team product nonetheless). Kevin Prince Boateng is another youth product, from u15-u21, but with the German squad. (Practically the starting XI)

        Although I agree with you that not all players make it to the full national team, the more successful national squads are those that are able to spot, develop and bring through players from those u15s. Many leagues create artificial barriers that impede talented players from gaining playing time (many African and some Latin leagues are very corrupt and require players to pay to play at the senior team and to get on some clubs) so as to become professional players. Many Caribbean leagues can’t pay there players enough to be able to make football a career.
        So, if you lump in all of these elements into your argument, then yes, many players who are talented prospects at 15 or 16 don’t make it to the top. However, that is too wide a net to cast. In those cases where there is a strong infrastructure and opportunities for players to make it to as professionals, a larger percentage of those players who make it to the u17 or u20 squads have a much greater chance of making it on to the senior squad.

        So, should the measuring stick for the U.S. be countries rife with corruption where youth players have limited chances of success when in the budding stages of their careers, or should it be countries that find ways of successfully moving up each successive generation of players to develop a deeper talent pool for the senior squad? That is the biggest takeaway of youth tournaments: what theory will we apply to frame our own strategies and policies?

      • Some of those players you mention have a few caps at most for the YNT. Also helps they were in La Masia (years before Spanish YNT).

        Pedro plays twice for a Spain U21 team and that was important to his development?

        Who developed Ronaldo? Figo? Sporting or their YNT? Come on you can link YNT to success as much as you want. It is simply nonsense to me that we would credit a team a kid plays with a few times a year for his development.

        Clubs, clubs, clubs, and clubs.

        I can’t believe you’re going to give Spain’s YNT the credit and not Barcalona.

      • The interesting thing about the players that you mention in your comment is that they all went through the u17 or u20 teams for their respective national squads.
        There is a lot to be said about many youngsters not making it as professionals or how some players happen to blossom later in their careers. But the benefit of these tournaments lies in that its an exercise in adding depth and developing a much stronger talent pool of players who have had experience playing in FIFA tournaments. In the end, that will make a difference when they get to the senior squad.
        For example, people can argue that the 2010 Argentine squad were not the best players to have been called up, what with Cambiasso, Zanetti and others not considered. But regardless, the team is 2, 3 and even 4 deep per position. The same can be said for Holland, Italy, Spain and Germany. They may not have all won the last youth tournaments, but their investments in talent development and providing their players with the opportunity to develop professionally and understand the pressures of playing at that level means that the coaches don’t have the headaches that U.S. coaches do on whether or not their players can cope with the pressure or have had international experience. That’s a given for all those squads. They don’t even consider that as an issue since they know those players have had that experience at some point. Instead, coaches can focus on selecting the players they deem fit and capable (even though their decisions don’t always pan out).

      • Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez. What experience (particularly YNT) experience did they have going into Azteca?

        You are certainly right that investment in young players is pivitol. But my point is- isn’t that a bigger concern on the professional end- getting academies running, building multiple divisions, making players on loan more possible, getting a reserve division, having incentives for teams to take on young players (Gen. Adidas), etc.

        Tournament experience is great, and I am in no way saying we shouldn’t put our best foot forward with our Youth National teams. What I am saying is- the results of my YNT, particularly at the u17 level at in such a large country, do not mean much in my outlook of the National Team.

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