by JACK BELL
The United States men’s under-20 national team was drawn on Wednesday into Group F — with Ecuador, Senegal and Saudi Arabia — for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea.
“We are proud to have earned a group top seed for the 2017 U-20 World Cup,” U.S. Coach Tab Ramos said in a statement. “As CONCACAF champions and 2015 U-20 World Cup quarterfinalists, we have put ourselves in a great position for this tournament. Our youth national team program has been on an upward trend and we need to continue to push forward in Korea Republic. This was a difficult draw, but we are ready for the challenge. Our plan is to treat each game like a final, so our preparation now shifts to Ecuador.”
The 24-team tournament runs from May 20-June 11 in six cities in South Korea. The two top teams in each of the six first-round groups, along with the best four third-place teams, advance to the Round of 16.
The American team will play Ecuador on May 22 (4 a.m. Eastern) in Incheon, Senegal on May 25 (7 a.m. Eastern) in Incheon, and close out first-round play against Saudi Arabia on May 28 (5 a.m. Eastern) in Daejeon.
Included among the people participating in the draw was one Diego Maradona (far left), a winner with Argentina of the 1979 U-20 World Cup (which was previously called the FIFA World Youth Championship). Argentina was drawn into a difficult group with the host nation, Guinea and England.
“What a draw for Argentina!” Maradona said after the draw. “We have some tough games, including a match against the hosts! What an exciting match that will be here in Korea, especially in front of a big local crowd.”
The U.S. advanced to the finals after winning the recent CONCACAF U-20 title in Costa Rica, building to a strong finish after losing its opening match. Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras also qualified from the CONCACAF region.
U.S. goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann (son of the senior national team’s former coach, Jurgen Klinsmann); defenders Marlon Fossey and Justen Glad; and midfielders Erik Palmer-Brown and Brooks Lennon earned Best XI honors. Klinsmann and Palmer-Brown received the Golden Glove and Golden Ball awards. Ramos is likely to include most of his roster from qualifying, but is also likely to seek the participation of Christian Pulisic, 18, the American now playing at Borussia Dortmund in Germany.