The USA's 2015 U-17 World Cup campaign kicks off against Nigeria, the winner of the 2013 edition of this tournament and winner of two of the last four World Cups at this level. Nigeria is global soccer's most successful nation at the men's U-17 level: four titles from seven trips to the final in the 15 iterations of this competition. If you want a test of how your country's teenagers are progressing relative to the world's best, you probably ought to play Nigeria.
At the U-17 level, most players are - essentially - kids based in youth systems of clubs in their respective countries. Stars can and do emerge in this tournament: Landon Donovan won the Golden Ball at the 1999 tournament; Cesc Fabregas was top scorer and MVP of the 2003 edition. But if you don't spend a great deal of time watching youth soccer in Nigeria or Chile or Croatia (the teams in the USA's group), it is difficult to predict who will emerge as a potential star of the global game at this World Cup. And, of course, even a world class 16 or 17 year old needs some good fortune to mature into a world class player at the senior level.
Still, this tournament is a showcase for the world's best in this age group, and the New York Red Bulls have a couple of players involved: academy prospects Matthew Olosunde and Tyler Adams. Both are defensive players, at least at this early stage of their careers. Adams is already a professional, contracted to the Red Bulls' USL team, NYRB II. RBNY's sporting director, Ali Curtis, has repeatedly suggested Adams will move up to the club's MLS squad for the 2016 season.
Olosunde, however, may be destined for a different path: Manchester United gave him a trial this summer, and now he'll have the eyes of all the world's top clubs on him.
Those eyes will also be on a clutch of young American attacking prospects, of whom Christian Pulisic - on Borussia Dortmund's books - may be the foremost. Haji Wright (New York Cosmos) and Alex Zendejas are perhaps the most familiar names to those who follow the domestic American game.