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Monday, October 9, 2006
The 2007 World Youth Championships are less than a year away and the United States may have their best ever squad for the bi-annual competition. With an ever increasing amount of youths heading to Europe and others opting out of college early for Major League Soccer, it is plausible that this could be a team largely comprised of professional players.

After qualifying first out of its group and having aspirations to advance far in the tournament, the 2005 Under-20's faltered in their Round of 16 game against Italy, falling 3-1. The memory of that defeat still lingers, but unlike a World Cup squad, the turnover of players is far greater.

With players born only in 1987 or later available for the competition, the likes of World Youth Championship veterans Benny Feilhaber, Eddie Gaven and Jonathan Spector are no longer eligible to compete for the highest prize in youth soccer. It is time for a new set of players to lead the United States to youth glory.

Like our 23 Tickets to South Africa, we will update these airplane reservations as Canada 2007 approaches.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=contact&action=show§ion=generalYA mailbag[endlink].

PACK YOUR BAGS, BOYS

Freddy Adu - M, DC United (USA) - One of four players still eligible from the 2005 team, Adu will be 18 when the WYC rolls around. His remarkable flair on the ball will prove vital for US success in Canada. This may be Freddy's last and best chance to prove himself before he heads off to a European club.

Josmer Altidore - F, New York Red Bulls (USA) - Quite possibly the hottest player in the youth ranks, Altidore has put the New York Red Bulls on his back scoring three goals in his first four games with the club. As the youngest player in MLS, he has scouts and coaches salivating over his potential. Dare I say a move to a major European club when he turns 18 is plausible.

Michael Bradley - M, Heerenveen (the Netherlands) - Which player in the U-20 pool has the most caps for the US Men's National Team? If you answered Michael Bradley, you would be correct. The former MetroStar has proven he can play in pressure situations and before long he could be in the starting XI at the rising Dutch club. An automatic starter for Thomas Rongen's group.

Robbie Rogers - M/F, Heerenveen (the Netherlands) - The former Maryland Terrapin is one of the most talented players in the pool. Impressive performances for the U-20 team over the summer did not go unnoticed by scouts as Heerenveen quickly snatched up the talented midfielder. With Bradley and Rogers both at Heerenveen, the Frisians will be must see TV in the future.

Johann Smith - F, Bolton (England) - If there is a player who came out of nowhere it is Smith. One of the most talked about Yanks abroad, Smith has yet to play a first team game with his club, but he has been successful in the youth ranks. The WYC may be more important for Smith than any other player in the American ranks.

Nathan Sturgis - D, Los Angeles Galaxy (USA) - The lone defender returning from the 2005 squad. Sturgis had a strong tournament from the United States in that tournament, and with his experience playing with Chris Albright and Ugo Ihemelu in Los Angeles, will be even better this time around.

NEARLY A LOCK

Chris Seitz - G, University of Maryland (USA) - The most highly touted netminder in college soccer, Seitz is ready to make the jump to the professional ranks. With a lack of pro young goalkeepers in the pool, Seitz is the early leader to be between the pipes in 2007.

Neven Subotic - D, FSV Mainz 05 (Germany) - The big Mainz defender will likely have his coming out party in Canada. The first thing he needs to do, however, is make an impression with the Mainz reserves in the German Oberliga when he begins there in January.

Preston Zimmerman - F, Hamburger SV II (Germany) - Considered to be a young Taylor Twellman. Zimmerman begins his career with Hamburg in January and could quickly pass the other forwards in the pool with a fast start.

Tim Ward - D, Columbus Crew (USA)- Ward missed the WYC in 2005 with an injury, but that won't happen this time around.

FAIRLY SAFE BET

Quavas Kirk -M/F, Los Angeles Galaxy (USA) - Frank Yallop has done wonders for the LA Galaxy wing man. His size, strength, and skills on the ball have been impressive. The quality of midfielders at this level prevents Kirk from being any higher on this list.

Dax McCarty - M, FC Dallas - The Dallas midfielder had a great summer with the youth team, moving him past Danny Szetela and some of the other talented midfielders in the pool. However, McCarty's lack of first team playing time is alarming.

Danny Szetela - M, Columbus Crew (USA) - Even though Szetela played on the 2005 team, he is not a lock. Injuries have hurt him more than any other player in the US Youth pool. A healthy Szetela with some solid games under his belt would move him a couple notches up in the pecking order.

Blake Wagner - D, FC Dallas (USA) - Although he did not play on the 2005 WYC team, Wagner is two years older and trains regularly against two of MLS' top forwards, Kenny Cooper and Carlos Ruiz - which cannot hurt.

IN A BATTLE

David Arvizu - M/F, New York Red Bulls (USA) - A gifted playmaker that looked impressive at the U-17 level, but has not been able to crack a weak Red Bulls midfield.

Nik Besagno - D, Real Salt Lake (USA) - The number one pick in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft, Besagno has seen to much time on the bench for someone who has been in the league for two seasons. Some off-season training in Europe may be what Besagno needs to improve his game.

Mike Gustavson - G, University of South Carolina (USA) - Cool and composed. Gustavson had a great freshman year and was rewarded for that by playing an important role the US at the Milk Cup.

Ofori Sarkodie - D, Indiana University (USA)- The former U-17 captain has the poise necessary to compete at this level.

Jonathan Villanueva - M, University of Virginia (USA) - Perhaps the most talented player in his age class, Villanueva recently scored his first goal of the season to knock off #1-ranked Clemson. Could very easily leave college after this season.

DARK HORSE

Erik Hort - D, Sparta Prague (CZE) - He has been playing in the reserves for the Czech club for nearly a full year. In the summer of 2006, he was called into his first youth camp with the USA. Things are looking up for the New York-born defender.

Amaechi Igwe - D, Santa Clara University (USA) - Strong defender playing for a good college team. Started on the Milk Cup squad.

Rodrigo Lopez - M, CD Chivas USA (USA)- The Chivas USA midfielder had a successful Milk Cup, but needs to get playing time at the club level.

Brian Perk - G, UCLA (USA) - A solid Busan Tournament has moved him up the pecking order.

MOVING UP THE LADDER

Tony Beltran - D, UCLA (USA) - The former U-17 International started in the Milk Cup Final, one of the biggest tournaments for the U-20's.

Corben Bone - M, Plano SC (USA) - Bone has played his way up to this spot with solid performances with the U-20's. He needs to get in a more competitive environment in order to establish a permanent presence in this team.

Miguel Gonzalez - M, New England Revolution (USA) - Steve Nicol never signs youth talent midseason, but he just picked up Gonzalez. That's high praise for the young midfielder.

Omar Gonzalez - D, University of Maryland (USA) - "Gooch-Lite" as some have tabbed him. The converted forward has been a beast in the University of Maryland's defense. A steady progression could see him be the surprise player of this squad.

Mike Grella - F, Duke University (USA) - Grella has had a great year at Duke and is one of the best forwards in the country as a sophomore.

Sonny Guadaramma - M, Santos Laguna (Mexico) - Needs to continue improvement at Santos in order to surpass an already deep midfielder pool.

Kyle Nakazawa - M, UCLA (USA) - Talented midfielder that was spectacular at the Under-17 World Championships in 2005. He needs to turn pro to show he can compete with the professional players in the pool.

Sal Zizzo - F, UCLA (USA) - Is having a good year for a quickly improving Bruins side. But is he ready for a step up in play?

OTHER BUBBLE BATTLERS

Carlos Borja, Bryan Bumpas, Kyle Davies, Genaro Fernandez, Jeremy Hall, Rodrigo Hidalgo, William Koss, Eric Lichaj, Demit Omphroy, Diego Restrepo, Brad Ring, Estuardo Sanchez, Stephen Sandbo, Israel Sesay, Jordan Seabrook, Nicolas Torres, Julian Valentin, Anthony Wallace, Sheaon Williams
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A big question for U.S. fans heading into the World Cup is surely on Jozy Altidore and just what is plaguing the young striker at Sunderland.
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