A month from today, halfway around the world in New Dehli, the United States U-17 National Team will begin their quest to win the US their first ever World Cup title at any age group. The US U-17’s will take on hosts India, Columbia, and Ghana in the group stages, and in final preparation for the tournament, 25 players have convened this week for a training camp in Bradenton, FL. No club is more involved in this team than Atlanta United, who have a remarkable five players in the squad. In this article, we’ll quickly look at each of their chances of making the trip to India and how each youngster could fit into the World Cup campaign.
Andrew Carleton - Forward
There are a handful of players that define each U-17 World Cup cycle. 2015’s team will be remembered for the likes of Christian Pulisic, Haji Wright and Joshua Perez, and Atlanta United’s Andrew Carleton is one who will ultimately define this year’s squad. Carleton has been a fixture in the national team at this age since he was 14, usually operating on the wing in a dangerous 3-pronged attack. The trio of Carleton, fellow winger Ayo Akinola, and striker Josh Sargent combined for a total of 11 goals in the qualifying tournament in May. If the U.S. go on a deep run in India, Carleton will almost certainly be a major reason why.
Chris Goslin - Midfielder
Chris Goslin is another player who has been heavily involved with this team for several years. Similar to his fellow Homegrown player Carleton, Goslin developed his reputation as one of the best players his age in the country with the U-17 national team, and he’ll be another important piece in the team’s World Cup hopes. Whether Goslin starts in India will largely depend on the opponent and how coach John Hackworth chooses to approach the game. Goslin, George Acosta and Blaine Ferri are all midfielders who offer different skill sets, and which two of the three start alongside defensive-mid Chris Durkin could change as the tournament goes on.
Justin Garces - Goalkeeper
Of all the keepers involved with the U-17’s, Justin Garces is probably the only one who has already secured his place on the plane to India. The Atlanta United U-19’s newest star is the national team’s starter and has the accomplishments to back it up. Garces earned the Golden Gloves award for best net-minder in May’s qualifying tournament after several strong performances, including a brilliant game in the final against Mexico. Barring any drastic changes, Garces will be back in net in the World Cup, and if he plays like he did in qualifying, Atlanta United may be forced to offer him a contract sooner rather than later.
Charlie Asensio - Defender
After spending a few months on the outside looking in, the versatile Charlie Asensio has been firmly in the national team picture in the lead-up to the World Cup. Asensio has been used as a fullback, center back, and defensive midfielder with the U-17’s, and while he isn’t a first choice player in any of those roles, he’s useful depth in all three. The Clemson-commit was recently handed the captain’s armband in a 4-0 win against Iceland at the Vaclav Jezek tourament in the Czech Republic. Only 21 names can be on the final roster and Asensio’s name is likely right on the edge of the cut line, but he’ll be a useful squad player for this team if he goes to India.
George Bello - Defender
There’s always at least one player that enters the picture from out of nowhere before a big tournament. For the U-17’s, that player is George Bello. Bello was born in 2002 and has been a regular with the U.S. U-15’s, the team that will make up the core of the 2019 U-17 World Cup cycle. Not only is he the youngest member of this squad by more than 6 months, he’s the youngest to be called up at all throughout the 2-year cycle. All of that serves as further indication of Bello’s extraordinary talent, but whether he makes the roster or not is a complete mystery. Chris Gloster of the New York Red Bulls is an excellent left back and has been this team’s starter for the entire cycle, but if Hackworth sees enough from Bello this week in Bradenton, he could be the first 15-year old to feature for the U.S. at the U-17 World Cup since Kellyn Acosta in 2011.