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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, September 23, 2017 1:00 am

In the news

City native to play in U17 World Cup

Fort Wayne native Akil Watts will be among the 21 Under-17 national team players who depart Sunday for Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to train for the upcoming FIFA U17 World Cup, which begins Oct. 6 in India.

The U.S. has qualified for the U17 World Cup in 12 of its last 13 opportunities, with its best finish coming in 1999 when it was fourth with a roster that included Landon Donovan and another Fort Wayne native, DaMarcus Beasley, who went on to become one of the most accomplished players in U.S. senior team history.

Watts, a defender, attends school in Portland, Oregon, and is a member of Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers' Academy. He was part of the U.S. squad that placed second at the CONCACAF Championships in May to secure a berth for the U17 World Cup.

“This cycle of players is unique in terms of the quality, depth and work ethic of the group,” U.S. coach John Hackworth said in a news release. “The biggest challenge in selecting this roster was the competition for spots at almost every position. Our team is looking forward to this opportunity to compete for the U17 World Cup and are motivated to prove themselves on the world stage.”

The U.S. will face India on Oct. 6, Ghana on Oct. 9 and Colombia on Oct. 12 in group play. The games will be broadcast on FS2 and Universo. Advancing to the round of 16 will be the top two teams from each of the six groups and the four best third-place teams.

In its last U17 World Cup appearance, in 2015, the U.S. went 0-2-1 in group play but faced eventual champion Nigeria and had a roster that included several future professionals, including Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic, Luca de la Torre and Auston Trusty.

Watts, a former Canterbury student, is one of 12 players on this year's U.S. roster from MLS academies.

– Journal Gazette