The United States U-17 squad will face the Czech Republic, Uzbekistan, and New Zealand in the group stage of the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico after today's draw was conducted in Mexico City.
The United States, which is expected to include Dynamo Academy goalkeeper and Houston native Fernando Piña, will battle the Czechs and Uzbekistan in Torreón on June 19 and June 22, respectively, before finishing Group D play against New Zealand in Pachuca on June 25.
The Oceania side is the only team in Group D — other than the Americans — to have previous finals experience. The Kiwis qualified in 1997, 2007, and 2009, and hosted in 1999 when the U.S. — led by Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley — finished fourth. The Czech squad is playing in its first tournament as an independent nation. They previously reached the U-17 World Cup in 1993 as Czechoslovakia. Uzbekistan will make its debut in 2011.
The Americans were one of the six seeded teams, meaning they could not be grouped with any of the other five (Mexico, Argentina, England, Germany, and Brazil). They managed to avoid traditional powers France and the Netherlands in the draw. Hosts Mexico were not so lucky, as they will meet the Dutch, along with Korea DPR, and Congo.
The U.S. have lost in the first elimination round in each of the past four tournaments. In 2009, the Americans finished second to Spain in their group before falling to Italy in the round of 16.
Piña, 17, started the United States' first three games at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in February but was red-carded in the extra-time quarterfinal win over El Salvador that clinched a World Cup spot. He did not play in the semifinal due to suspension or in the final.
Noah Davis covers the United States men's national team for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @noahedavis.