Tab Ramos and his triumphant United States under-20 men’s national team discovered who they will face at the 2017 Under-20 World Cup during Wednesday’s draw in South Korea.
Unlike the host South Koreans, the Americans were dealt a decent hand as the top seed in Group F. The CONCACAF champions will open the May 20-June 11 tournament against South American second-place finisher Ecuador at Incheon Stadium on Monday, May 22, and then play three days later at the same venue against African runner-up Senegal.
The U.S. concludes group play against Saudi Arabia at Daejeon World Cup Stadium on May 28.
Despite avoiding any major soccer powers, Ramos called it “a difficult draw” and said his team will be “ready for the challenge.”
“Our plan is to treat each game like a final,” added the head coach in U.S. Soccer’s press release, “so our preparation now shifts to Ecuador.”
At least Ramos’ side didn’t have bad luck like South Korea.
Audible groans came from the audience when six-time U-20 world champion Argentina fell into the host country’s group from Pot 2. The same level of dread could be heard when England was drawn into Group A from Pot 3. Rivals Argentina and England, by the way, will meet on the tournament’s opening day, May 20.
As for other CONCACAF representatives: Mexico is in Group B along with Germany, Venezuela and Vanuatu; Costa Rica is in Group C with Portugal, Zambia and Iran; and Honduras is in Group F with France, Vietnam and New Zealand.
The knockout stage starts May 30 with the round of 16. After June 4-5 quarterfinals and June 8 semifinals, the final will be played at Suwon World Cup Stadium on Sunday, June 11 (7 p.m. local time, 6 a.m. ET).
The legendary Diego Maradona and fellow Argentine Pablo Aimar were on hand to assist with the festivities in Suwon. The 56-year-old Maradona handled the Pot 1 draw, happily announcing USA in Group F with the phonetic pronunciation of the abbreviation: “OOOOH-sah!”