The United States completed a perfect group stage in the 2017 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship on Saturday evening, topping El Salvador 1-0 to maintain their good run of form ahead of the games that will decide their World Cup qualifying fate.
With qualification to the next round and first place in Group C already secured after wins over Jamaica and Mexico, US manager John Hackworth opted to shuffle his lineup for the group stage finale. Among those rested by the former Philadelphia Union coach were the team’s co-leading scorers in the tournament, Josh Sargent and Toronto FC II’s Ayo Akinola.
However, there was still plenty of MLS influence to be found on the field, especially on the 51st minute decider. After being played through by George Acosta, FC Dallas forward Bryan Reynolds, who at age 15 became the youngest Homegrown Player signing in club history last fall, found Atlanta United academy forward Zyen Jones with an inch-perfect cross at the far post for the simple finish.
Other MLS first-teamers on the field included D.C. United‘s Chris Durkin, who wore the captain’s armband while helping pitch a shutout in the center of defense, and Atlanta Homegrown forward Andrew Carleton, who replaced his former academy teammates Jones as a 62nd minute substitute.
Hackworth and the US players will now turn their focus to the Classification Stage of the tournament, where they, Honduras and Cuba will battle for two available spots in the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, which is set to take place in India this October. After watching Cuba face Honduras on May 1, the US will play Honduras on May 3 followed by Cuba on May 5. The first-place team in the group of three will also play the winner of the other group in the Classification Stage – which contains Mexico, Costa Rica and hosts Panama – for the CONCACAF title on May 7.