Acting U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach Sean Tsakiris has named a 24-player roster for the annual Nike International Friendlies, to be held at the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2. The four-team tournament will feature the USA, Brazil, Portugal and Turkey. The USA kicks things off against Portugal on Wednesday, Nov. 28 (6:30 p.m. ET), takes on Turkey on Friday, Nov. 30 (6:30 p.m. ET) and wraps up versus Brazil on Sunday, Dec. 2 (5:30 p.m. ET).
"The Nike International Friendlies are another important opportunity to evaluate players who have done well with their clubs," Tsakiris said. "The reality of the National Team is that the player pool is constantly being evaluated. High-level games like these provide an invaluable opportunity to see the progress of our players and for them to show us that they deserve to be a part of our group moving forward."
This year’s Nike International Friendlies will feature players born on or after Jan. 1, 2002, the age cut-off date for the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup, to be held in Peru in Oct. 2019. It will serve as important preparation as all four nations attempt to qualify for the World Cup next spring.
2018 Nike International Friendlies Roster by Position (Club or College; Hometown; Caps/Goals)
DEFENDERS (8): Axel Alejandre (FC United; Chicago, Ill.; 12/0), Adam Armour (North Carolina FC; Cary, N.C.; 8/0), Sebastian Falsone (Virginia Development Academy; Warrenton, Va.; 0/0), Jonathan Gomez (FC Dallas; Keller, Texas; 0/0), Tayvon Gray (New York City FC; Bronx, N.Y.; 7/0), Kobe Hernandez (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 11/1), Mason Judge (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER; Tampa, Fla.; 10/0), Joe Scally (New York City FC; Lake Grove, N.Y.; 11/1)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Masango Akale (Minnesota Thunder Academy; Minneapolis, Minn.; 0/0), Andre Luiz Costa (Rayo Vallecano/ESP; Madrid, Spain; 0/0), William Reilly (Atlanta United FC; Decatur, Ga.; 2/0), Giovanni Reyna (Unattached; Bedford, N.Y.; 5/1), Adam Saldana (LA Galaxy; Panorama City, Calif.; 14/1), Peter Stroud (West Ham United/ENG; Chester, N.J.; 12/0)
FORWARDS (7): Cameron Dunbar (LA Galaxy; Chula Vista, Calif.; 0/0), Ruben Hernandez (Club Leon/MEX; Manteca, Calif.; 0/0), Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Seattle Sounders FC; Kent, Wash.; 12/5), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas; 3/0), Daniel Robles (Seattle Sounders FC; White Center, Wash.; 5/0), Alex Villanueva (Seattle Sounders FC; Maple Valley, Wash.; 0/0), Griffin Yow (D.C. United; Clifton, Va.; 3/2)
2018 Nike International Friendlies Schedule
Wednesday, Nov. 28
Turkey vs. Brazil, 3:30 p.m. ET
USA vs. Portugal, 6:30 p.m. ET
Friday, Nov. 30
Portugal vs. Brazil, 3:30 p.m. ET
USA vs. Turkey, 6:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, Dec. 2
Portugal vs. Turkey, 2:30 p.m. ET
USA vs. Brazil, 5:30 p.m. ET
Started in 2001, and adopting their current format in 2008, the Nike International Friendlies were founded to provided top-level competition for the U-17 MNT and stand as one of the premier annual events on the youth soccer calendar. Seven players on the latest senior Men’s National Team roster competed at the Nike International Friendlies: Kellyn Acosta, Tyler Adams, Shaq Moore, Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Luca de la Torre and Tim Weah, while the event has also seen international talent like Brazil’s Phillipe Coutinho, Neymar and Marcelo pass through the Premier Sports Campus.
The event is held annually in conjunction with the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase, which brings together every Academy club from across the country for a series of highly-competitive matches. Eighteen players called to the U-17 MNT roster are currently competing in the 2018-19 Academy season, while 22 of 24 have spent time playing in the Academy.
The USA will seek its first Nike Friendlies title since 2016, when the USA, featuring current MNT players Sargent and Weah, topped the same three teams that will feature in this year’s competition by a combined score of 15-2. The U.S. finished last year’s tournament 0-2-1 as it kicked off the cycle against England, Netherlands and Brazil, capping off the tournament with a spirited 1-1 draw versus the South Americans.
Tsakiris has called in a mix of experienced players and newcomers for the tournament. Sixteen of the 24 players that will represent the USA in Florida have been capped at this level, while eight are participating in their first training camp/event with the U-17s. Three players: goalkeeper Damian Las, defender Axel Alejandre and midfielder Adam Saldana, have appeared in all eight events of the U-17 cycle thus far.
As the USA prepares for next spring’s 2019 Concacaf U-17 Championship, the U-17s have played 14 international games in 2018, compiling an 8-4-2 record. Those results include three international tournaments: the 2018 Sportchain Cup, where the U.S. defeated India and Norway twice each to take home the title, Mexico’s Four Nations Tournament, that featured showdowns with the host, Argentina and Chile as well as England’s U-17 International Tournament, where the USA rallied for late wins against Brazil and Russia to claim second place.
All three of the USA’s opponents are frequent foes at the competition. Brazil has appeared at every edition of the tournament since it assumed its current format in 2008, and also sent teams in 2006 and 2007. Portugal and Turkey have appeared at the competition four of ten times since 2008, tied with England for second-most all-time.