Under-20 World Cup
The international tournament approaches
By Michael Lewis
June 26, 2007
One of the most least publicized, but important international soccer tournament is about to kickoff on the North American continent June 30the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
Some of the best players in the world have played in this competition over the past three decadesArgentine great Diego Maradona, ex-Dutch striker Marco Van Basten, Brazilian star Ronaldinho and former Yugoslavian and Croatian star Robert Prosinecki, to drop a few names.
Can the United States add a name or two to that impressive list?
The Americans have a few candidates, including Freddy Adu, the former 14-year-old phenom, Jozy Altidore, considered to be the best teenager in Major League Soccer, Gabriel Ferrari, a 17-year-old who already is a member of Sampdoria of the Italian First Division, and Michael Bradley, the son of U.S. national coach Bob Bradley.
Moreover, U-20 coach Thomas Rongen wants the team to play well and advance as far as it could in the tournament.
The U.S. meets South Korea in Montreal on Saturday, June 30, Poland in Montreal July 3 and tournament-favorite Brazil in Ottawa on July 6. If the Americans qualify for the second round, they will play that game of the 24-team tournament on July 11 or 12, depending on how they fare in the Group D opening round.
The quarterfinals are scheduled for July 14-18, the semifinals for July 18-19 and the championship game July 22.
Asked how far this team can go, Altidore replied: "Honestly, as far as we want. It's really up to us. I think the team is pretty good. If we play the way we should play, then the sky's the limit for this squad.
"I'm very excited about it. I never got really to be a big part of competition like this. It's a world cup. It's the No. 2 event after the men's World Cup in my opinion. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way. So it's the biggest (worldwide soccer) event this year. I want to help and show people that the U.S. can play at all age levels. I feel we can do that, especially with this team."
Forward Gabriel Ferrari felt the team's recent 2-1 win over Chile at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. was a "big test" and that it "helped our confidence out. I think we can do really well in the World Cup."
"Advancing from our group is our first expectation. After that, we can do a lot of damage as well."