The United States is going to the U-17 World Cup. Barely.
The Americans defeated Jamaica in penalties on Sunday, booking their spot in the tournament. But while the U.S. is going to the World Cup, there are plenty of questions about the team and coaches.
This is one of the more talented U-17 teams the U.S. has had in years. Christian Pulisic led a strong team that included Haji Wright and Joe Gallardo, making them the best team at the tournament on paper. They certainly didn't look the part on the field, though.
After throttling Cuba to begin with, the U.S. beat Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala. All was well. They weren't completely dominant and playing at their best, but they were good. Then came a draw against Honduras. And a loss to Jamaica followed.
The U.S., which would have qualified for the World Cup by winning their group, had finished third. THIRD! Not in CONCACAF, just in their group. And with that they had to go to a playoff for a spot in the World Cup.
Once again, they met Jamaica. And once again, they couldn't score. Twice they played Jamaica needing a win to advance to the U-17 World Cup and twice they failed to muster a goal. It is inexplicable.
Thankfully, the Americans came through in penalty kicks. That put them into the World Cup and averted disaster, but only temporarily so.
Two years ago, the U-17s failed to qualify for the World Cup. And yet Richie Williams kept his job. This time around, they only got through on penalties, but all we have seen from Williams-led U-17s is high talented teams underachieve. Now they're going to the World Cup, where they won't be far and away the most talented sides, so what will happen then?