U.S. Draws … Wait for It … Ghana in U-17 World Cup

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By JACK BELL

U17 logoGhana, it always seems to be Ghana.

The United States men’s under-17 national team was drawn into Group A on Friday — with host India, challenging Colombia and ubiquitous Ghana — for the group stage of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

On the senior level, the American men have faced Ghana in each of the last three World Cups, and most recently in a friendly match last week in Connecticut ahead of the start of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The tournament will be played in India from Oct. 6 to Oct. 28, when the final will be held at the 85,000-seat Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.

The U.S. will face the hosts in their opening match in New Delhi on Oct. 6, then Colombia on Oct. 9 and Ghana on Oct. 12. The tournament will be played six cities: Kochi, Goa, Navi Mumbai, New Delhi, Guwahati and Kolkata.

The U.S. team, coached by John Hackworth, finished second to Mexico (losing on penalty kicks) in the regional qualifying tournament in Panama in May.

“Right now our team is champing at the bit to get back into international completion because in our last experience, we walked away with a real sour taste in our mouth,” Hackworth told USsoccer.com. “This team has ambitions and the only way to satisfy some of those ambitions is to get back on the field and prove yourself once again. This is a fantastic opportunity for us. We are going to work very hard and very smart as we build towards the World Cup, but we are certainly excited about the chance.”

Two teams from each group and the four best third-placed team in the preliminary phase will move to the Round of 16, to be held from Oct. 16. The quarterfinals are scheduled to be played Oct. 21 and 22, followed by the two semifinals on Oct. 25 in Guwahati and Navi Mumbai.

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who was born in India, attended the draw on Friday.

“This tournament for me and for FIFA is about aspiration,” Gulati said. “Generally, we think about the aspirations of the players … but we don’t know who they are until they’ve played in this tournament and become stars afterwards. But they are aspiring when they play in the Under-17 World Cup … But it is also aspiration for India, aspiration for Indian football. We can bring those two things together and what’s been happening in the country over the last few years since this tournament was awarded to India is extraordinary.”

The groups:

Group A: India, U.S., Ghana, Colombia

Group B: Turkey, Mali, New Zealand, Paraguay

Group C: Iran, Guinea, Germany, Costa Rica

Group D: North Korea, Niger, Brazil, Spain

Group E: Honduras, Japan, New Caledonia, France

Group F: Iraq, Mexico, Chile, England