August 4, 1998
UCLA men's soccer head coach Sigi Schmid, goalkeeper coach David Vanole and five of their UCLA players head the 18-player U.S. Under-20 National Team which will open the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in Port of Spain, Trinidad Wednesday, August 5.
The USA has been placed in Group A and will face Costa Rica (Aug. 5), Canada (Aug. 7) and host Trinidad & Tobago (Aug. 9) in the round-robin tournament. In CONCACAF's Group B, Mexico, Guatemala, the Caribbean champion and the #3 team from Central America will play a round-robin tournament in Guatemala later this year. The top two teams from each of the two CONCACAF groups will receive berths in the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship, April 3-24, 1999 in Nigeria.
Leading the U.S. Under-20s will be four players from the 1997 NCAA Champion UCLA Soccer Team - Final Four All-Tournament team selections Carlos Bocanegra (defender; Alta Loma, CA) and McKinley Tennyson, Jr. (forward; Indianapolis, IN), as well as Nick Rimando (goalkeeper; Montclair, CA) and Shaun Tsakiris (midfielder; Saratoga, CA). Also on the U.S. team is incoming freshman Ryan Futagaki (midfielder; Fountain Valley, CA). Joining them will be four players already under professional contracts in the United States, as well as nine other college freshmen and sophomores.
"From the time this team first met back in January, we've always been focused on the goal of qualifying for the World Youth Championship," said head coach Schmid, an assistant coach for the U.S. at the 1994 World Cup. "The players have sacrificed and done everything that I have asked and I'm confident that it will pay dividends in Trinidad."
For the first time ever, the U.S. will enter a CONCACAF youth qualifying tournament with the assistance of a number of professional players. Tim Howard (NY/NJ MetroStars), Jamar Beasley (New England Revolution) and Nino DaSilva (Kansas City Wizards) have Project-40 contracts with U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer, while Francisco Gomez is under contract with the A-League's California Jaguars.
The U.S. has participated in six World Youth Championships since the tournament's inception in 1977. The top finish came in 1989 in Saudi Arabia when the U.S. squad, led by all-tournament goalkeeper Kasey Keller, finished fourth overall and collected the Fair Play Award. At the most recent World Youth Championship (Malaysia '97), the U.S. advanced out of a difficult opening group but were defeated in the second round by eventual runner-up Uruguay.