(Saturday, March 3, 2007) -- The United States will face South Korea, Poland and Brazil in Group D of the men's Under-20 World Cup which will take place between June 30 and July 22 in six Canadian cities.
The U.S. faces South Korea on June 30, the tournament's opening day, meets Poland July 3 and completes the first round July 6 against Brazil. The first two matches will be played at Olympic Stadium in Montreal with the Brazil game at Frank Clair Stadium in Ottawa.
"Anytime you go to a World Cup and you're drawn with Brazil it's exciting," U.S. under-20 coach Thomas Rongen said. "For us to go out and measure ourselves against the best in the world is what this under-20 competition is all about. With Poland and South Korea complementing Brazil, we have a very interesting and tough group. But saying that, all 24 teams at this stage deserve to be there so there are no easy games."
The field consists of six groups of four nations with the top two teams from each group and the four third-place teams with the best records advancing to the Round of 16. The 52 matches in the tournament will be played at venues in Burnaby, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Victoria.
The U.S., having qualified for this event for a sixth straight time, will play all three group matches on artificial turf.
"Everybody is in the same situation," Rongen said. "I think all teams will make a very conscious effort to practice and play games on turf that represents the same turf we're going to see in Montreal and Ottawa. It changes the game somewhat, but at the end of the day, it will still come down to executing your game plan regardless of where you play."
Rongen previously took the U.S. under-20s to the world tournament, then known as the World Youth Championship, in the United Arab Emirates in 2003. The Americans won their preliminary group for the first time and advanced to the quarterfinals before falling 2-1 in overtime to Argentina to wind up in fifth place.
Sigi Schmid led the U-20s to 11th place in the 2005 tournament in the Netherlands.
"I think we obviously have a hard group but I'm excited about this opportunity," said 17-year-old team captain Freddy Adu, who will be playing in his third world tourney at this age group. "We are going to find out how good we are playing against these teams and if we play well enough to get out of the group, we will be well prepared for the second round because all three (opening) games are going to be tough. Brazil always has one of the best teams in every age group and it's a great opportunity for us to show we can play against the best in the world on the world stage. People are going to be watching and it is going to be a great atmosphere, I'm sure. I'm looking forward to it."
The best finish for the U.S. came in Saudi Arabia in 1989 when three-time World Cup veteran Kasey Keller was in the U-20 goal. The Americans finished fourth, losing to Nigeria 2-1 in overtime in the snowy semifinals and then 2-0 to Brazil in the third-place match.
The U.S. will make its 11th overall appearance in the 16th rendition of the under-20 championship event. South Korea has played in nine previously, including the last two, and advanced to this event by finishing third in Asian Football Confederation qualifying.
The U.S. qualified for Canada '07 with a first-place finish in Group A of the CONCACAF Under-20 Final Round Qualifying Tournament in Panama City, Panama, in January. The U.S. opened the tournament impressively, disposing of Haiti 4-1, drew 0-0 with Guatemala and then dumped Panama 5-0 to secure its berth. It was the second straight time the Americans went 3-0 and finished atop their qualifying group.
The U.S. and South Korea have met twice previously in this tournament, both times to close group play. In 1993, the countries played a 2-2 draw with the U.S. moving on to lose 3-0 to Brazil and finish eighth. In 2003, the Americans prevailed 2-0 and then blanked the Ivory Coast 2-0 in the Round of 16 before dropping the thriller to Argentina..
South Korea "is always a team to be reckoned with coming out of Asia and a tough opening game for us," Rongen said.
Poland hosted the European Under-19 Championship last July and finished fifth to qualify for this tournament for their fourth time, but first since 1983. Poland finished in third place in Mexico in 1983, defeating the U.S. 2-0 in group play. Two years earlier, Poland drubbed the Americans 4-0 in Australia.
"Poland is a very traditional, Eastern European team, a team that will play with a lot of organization and discipline," Rongen said.
Four-time titlist Brazil has the most appearances (14) and victories (57) in the U-20 world championship history. The U.S. is 0-3 against Brazil in the event, falling twice in 1989 (3-1 in group play and 2-0 in the semifinals) and 3-0 in the Round of 16 in 1993.
Brazil qualified for its trip to Canada by winning the South American U-20 championship in Paraguay in January.
U.S. roster for the Under-20 World Cup with players' names followed with team and hometown in parentheses. Teams are identified either by college, or Major League Soccer or foreign affiliation:
Goalkeepers (3): Brian Perk (UCLA, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.), Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake, MLS; San Luis Obispo, Calif.).
Defenders (4): Ofori Sarkodi (Indiana University; Huber Heights, Ohio), Nathan Sturgis (Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS; Redondo Beach, Calif.), Anthony Wallace (FC Dallas, MLS; St. Petersburg, Fla.), Tim Ward (Columbus Crew, MLS; Waukesha, Wisc.)
Midfielders (7): Freddy Adu (Real Salt Lake, MLS; Potomac, Md.), Brian Arguez (D.C. United, MLS; Miami, Fla.), Tony Beltran (UCLA; Claremont, Calif.), Amaechi Igwe (New England Revolution, MLS; Belmont, Calif.), Robby Rogers (SC Heerenven, Netherlands; Huntington Beach, Calif.), Danny Szetala (Columbus Crew, MLS; Clifton, N.J.), Jonathan Villanueva (University of Virginia; Grand Prairie, Texas)
Forwards (7): Andre Akpan (Harvard University, Grand Prairie, Texas). Josmer Altidore (New York Red Bulls, Boca Raton, Fla.), Quavas Kirk (Los Angeles Galaxy, Long Beach, Calif.). Johann Smith (Bolton Wanderers, England; Bloomfield, Conn.), Julian Valentin (Wake Forest University; Lancaster, Pa.), Preston Zimmerman (Hamburg SV, Germany; Pasco, Wash.), Sal Zizzo (UCLA; San Diego).