The U17 World Cup is just under four months away and the United States U17 team is scheduled to get back together during the September International window. This will be the first time the U17 team has held an official camp in several months.
The United States qualified for the U17 World Cup by finishing second at the Concacaf Championships in February of this year. At lot has changed with the pool over the last five months and we should see some different faces in the next camp. In this article I will go position by position to give an update on where the pool stands.
Diego Kochen, goalkeeper at Barcelona's Academy
Before we get into who is available and fighting for a position, let's start with a list of players who are good enough to have been considered for this team, but are not available. These players are not available because they are playing for a different country or have played in an official qualification game for a different country, making them ineligible to switch during this U17 cycle.
RB, Malachi Molina, FC Dallas (Jamaica)
LB, Javen Romero, LAFC (Mexico)
DM/CM, Alejandro Granados, Orlando City (Spain)
AM/WING, Cole Campbell, Borussia Dortmund (Iceland)
WING, Olger Escobar, New England Revolution (Guetamala)
WING, Fidel Barajas, Charleston Battery (Mexico)
CF, Bryan Destin, Inter Miami (Haiti)
CF, Nayrobi Vargas, FC Dallas (Honduras)
The U17 pool
The MLS Next 2022 - 2023 season has concluded, so many U17 players are in their offseason, but many are playing in MLS Next Pro and a few are playing in USL. The next MLS Next season will start in September, but most of the top 2006 born players have finished their MLS Next careers, so MLS Next Pro and USL are the main places where kids can display their growth to the decision makers at U.S. Soccer.
Diego Kochen, Barcelona (2006)
Julian Eyestone, FC Dallas (2006)
Duran Ferree, San Diego Loyal (2006)
Adam Beaudry, Colorado Rapids (2006)
Andrew Rick, Philadelphia Union (2006)
Beaudry and Ferree were the keepers for the Concacaf Championship, but Kochen is the clear number one option. He was selected to the continental tournament, but had to be pulled because of an injury. Kochen's availability for this tournament will have a direct impact on this team's chances of going deep into the tournament. Kochen is already moving through the Barca Academy rapidly and is one of the best young goalkeeping prospects on the planet.
Julian Eyestone has been playing outstanding in MLS Next Pro and outside of Kochen, nobody has more raw ability than the 6-6 agile Eyestone. He would be my pick to be number two if the coaching staff is willing to switch things up. Rick has been coming on strong and was invited to the last camp in April and has also been playing well in MLS Next Pro.
Peyton Miller, New England Revolution (2007)
Christian McFarlane, NYCFC (2007)
Tahir Reid-Brown, Orlando City (2006)
Ezequiel Abadia-Reda, Inter Miami (2006)
The United States did not bring one true left-back to the Concacaf Championships and it turned out to be problematic. I don't see that happening again for the World Cup and thanks to the emergence of Peyton Miller, I think there is a clear choice. Miller is a young 2007, but he has been playing very well in MLS Next Pro and leads all 2007 born players in minutes and goal contributions (4). He was invited to the last U17 camp and was not in attendance for the U16 friendlies in Japan, which to me indicated that he has been promoted to the U17 team. McFarlane, Reid-Brown and Abadia-Reda are all be good options for true left-backs.
Oscar Verhoeven, San Jose Earthquakes (2006)
Aiden Harangi, Eintracht Frankfurt (2006)
Owen Presthus, Columbus Crew (2006)
Shawn Lanza, Atlanta United (2006)
Sawyer Jura, Portland Timbers (2006)
Verhoeven, Harangi and Jura were the three full-backs from the continental tournament and Verhoeven and Jura split duties at left-back even though they are naturally right-footed players. None of the guys had outstanding tournaments, but all are still in the mix for the World Cup. Verhoeven has been playing well in MLS Next Pro and will likely be there and Harangi will have a chance to impress for Frankfurt's U19 team leading up to the tournament. I think those two are the favorites to make the squad, but Lanza was invited to the April camp and Presthus is an emerging player that could turn heads if he gets some minutes in MLS Next Pro before the September camp.
LCB, Matai Akinmboni, Loudoun United (2006)
RCB, Adrian Pelayo, Portland Timbers (2006)
RCB, Tyler Hall, Inter Miami (2006)
RCB, Stuart Hawkins (2006)
RCB, Noahkai Banks, FC Augsburg (2006)
RCB, Christian Diaz, LAFC (2006)
Hall is the captain of this team and Hawkins has been in every meaningful camp since this cycle started, so it is hard to see either of those guys getting displaced, but it's possible. Akinmboni is the most talented player of the bunch and the only natural lefty. He was not released for the continental tournament and is currently recovering from an injury. If he is available he should be a lock pick. Pelayo was invited to the April camp and is an interesting option. He is an exceptional passer — similar to the level of passer that Brandan Craig is. He has been starting in MLS Next Pro recently and is making a strong push to be considered. Banks was an alternate for the Concacaf Championships and has been a consistent call-up recently. Diaz was the third CB at the Concacaf Championship and struggled a bit, so he is going to have to really impress to stay in contention. This is going to be one of the most competitive positions heading into the World Cup.
Pedro Soma, UE Cornella (2006)
Matthew Corcoran, Birmingham Legion (2006)
Edwyn Mendoza, San Jose Earthquakes (2006)
Alex Perez, Philadelphia Union (2006)
In my opinion, Pedro Soma was the MVP of the Concacaf Championships for the United States and will be one of the first names selected if available. He is a lock. Mendoza was his backup and was fine. He is also playing in MLS Next Pro and will be a favorite to make the roster. The mystery man within this group is Matthew Corcoran. He has been the best young player in USL not named Fidel Barajas and would be a great addition to this team, but he has never been selected to a U17 camp which leads me to believe something is going on there. He is too good to not get a look. We will see if something changes in the next few months, but I would not count on it. Perez has been getting a lot of minutes MLS Next Pro as well and is very good on the ball.
Christopher Olney Jr, Philadelphia Union (2006)
Taha Habroune, Columbus Crew (2006)
Adrian Gill, FC Barcelona (2006)
Bento Estrela, New York Red Bulls (2006)
Cole Mrowka, Columbus Crew (2006)
Ale Urzua, FC Dallas (2006)
This pool lacks true box to box ball progressors. For the majority of this cycle the United States have played with attacking-mids in this role. Against lesser opponents this is fine, but when you are not dominating the ball, you need ball winners in the midfield.
Habroune is willing to do the defensive work and performed well at the Concacaf Championship. Gill came in with high expectations, but didn't quite live up to them, but his positional flexibility is useful. Estrela is a true box to box and would bring a different element to this team, but he hasn't been with the group for some time. Mrowka is more of an attacking-mid, chance creator type who has been playing very well in MLS Next Pro. Urzua is another sleeper pick that has raised his stock with his play in MLS Next Pro. I think the ace in the hole is Christopher Olney. He isn't a true eight, but he can do it and he has taken his game to an entirely new level in MLS Next Pro with three goals and six assists. He was in the last U17 camp and I have a strong feeling he will be a big contributor at the U17 World Cup.
Cruz Medina, San Jose Earthquakes (2006)
Micah Burton, Austin FC (2006)
Paulo Rudisill, LA Galaxy (2006)
Christopher Aquino, Seattle Sounders (2006)
Aaron Heard, St. Louis City (2006)
Axel Perez, Lyon (2007)
There are no shortage of attacking-midfielders in this age group. In fact, there were times when the U.S. played with four attacking-mid type players at a time. Medina and Burton are pretty close to locks if they are available. Rudisill and Aquino had some good moments at the Concacaf Championships. Rudisill specifically provides positional flexibility. Heard could bring a little more athleticism and playmaking to the group. Perez was rumored to be on the final roster for the continental tournament and as one of the most talented 2007 player, I am not counting him out.
David Vazquez, Philadelphia Union (2006)
Brian Romero, Charlotte FC (2006)
Bajung Darboe, LAFC (2006)
Andre Gitau, Without Club (2006)
Zavier Gozo, Real Salt Lake (2007)
Nimfasha Berchimas, Charlotte FC (2008)
This position group struggle the most during the Concacaf Championship. The group lacked explosiveness and struggled to win their one on one battles. Unfortunately, there are not any players in the pool that will drastically chance the situation. Vazquez and Romero were on the Concacaf Championship roster. Vazquez has shown a lot of growth over the last four months and is highly likely to be a starter on this team. Gitau and Darboe were thought of as the top wingers a year or two ago, but both have had some challenges with their club situations. Darboe seems to be back on the right track, signing a first team deal with LAFC. He his working his back way into fitness and if he can show well in MLS Next Pro, he could get himself back in the mix before the World Cup. The same can be said for Gitau if he can get to a new club soon. Gozo and Berchimas are young and talented wingers that can be high quality contingency plans.
Keyrol Figueroa, Liverpool (2006)
Zeke Soto, Houston Dynamo (2007)
Adem Sipic, Nashville SC (2006)
Caden Glover, St. Louis City (2007)
There is no ambiguity around the starting number nine. Figueroa, the leading goal scorer for the United States in the Concacaf Championship, is the first choice if availability. Soto was the lone 2007 player from the Concacaf Championship and is a favorite to return. Sipic and Glover are two players to keep an eye on if they can continue to grow in MLS Next Pro.