Don't despair, U.S. soccer fans. There is hope.
Six days after the U.S. men's national team was bounced from World Cup contention with an embarrassing 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. Under-17 team reached the quarterfinals of the U17 World Cup in India with a 5-0 victory over Paraguay.
They will play the winner of Tuesday's England vs. Japan game on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. (FS2, Telemundo). It is the first U.S. appearance in the quarterfinals since 2005.
Tim Weah, son of 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah, scored a hat trick to lead the U.S. team over Paraguay in front of 34,895 fans at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Monday. Weah grew up in New York City and signed his first pro contract in July with Paris Saint-Germain, where his Liberian father played from 1992-95. The elder Weah, one of the top African players of all time, also played at AC Milan from 1995-2000.
Goalkeeper Justin Garces of Miami, who played youth soccer at Kendall SC and is now with Atlanta United's Academy team, recorded the shutout, the third clean sheet in four games for the U.S. team. The Americans beat India 3-0 in the Opener, shut out Ghana 1-0, and lost 3-1 to Colombia before blanking Paraguay in the knockout round.
Midfielder George Acosta of Hollywood, and an alum of Miami Lakes United and Weston FC, is also on the team and a key player.
Asked if the victory made up for the senior national team's elimination from the 2018 World Cup, U17 coach John Hackworth said: "I don't think anything is going to take away that, and it's a different level. I would say that we talked about it internally when that happened as a team, and I told these guys that the responsibility was falling on them now to give hope to our country and to all the good work that I think we're doing with the national team programs."
He said he hopes the U17 team's success will ease the pain back home.
"It's easy when you've had a bad result for everyone to think so negative, and more so when you miss a World Cup," Hackworth said. "But hopefully, with this performance we've shown our country and the world that we're a footballing nation and we have some potential world-class players like the one sitting next to me (Weah)."
Captain Josh Sargent and midfielders Andrew Carleton scored the other two goals. Sargent, a St. Louis native, reached an agreement to sign with Bundesliga club Werder Bremen in February, when he turns 18. He is the first player since phenom Freddy Adu to play in the U17 and U20 World Cups in the same year.
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