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Mt. Lebanon’s Mia Bhuta named to USWNT U17 roster for 2022 CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship

Photo courtesy Mia Bhuta / Internationals SC

Mt. Lebanon’s Mia Bhuta was officially named to the United States Women’s Soccer National Team’s U17 20 player roster ahead of the 2022 Concafaf Women’s U-17 Championship as announced by U.S. Soccer on Monday.

Recently, Pittsburgh Soccer Now featured Bhuta, who has trained and played with the International SC, a Northeast Ohio-based club.

Driven to succeed: Mia Bhuta takes well-traveled road to USWNT’s U-17 player pool

The Mt. Lebanon High School senior and Stanford University commit was excited to be training with this current group of young female players as part of the National Team pool.

“It’s become a close group,”  Bhuta shared.

“We’re starting to play together really well.  I feel comfortable expressing myself in that environment and in my abilities, making an impact.  There are no guarantees for a roster spot.  You’re in a pool.  You have to fight as hard as you can to win and keep your spot.  We’re all comfortable, but just not too comfortable, so we’re continuously pushing ourselves to be the best we can, while also getting to know each other playing as a team.  National team camps are amazing.  I love being in that environment.  It’s super competitive.  Everyone is working as hard as they can.  It’s nice to be surrounded by so many young women who want to make an impact in the sports world and it’s really inspiring.  I love being there.”

Under the direction of head coach Natalia Astrain, the U.S. Under-17 Women’s Youth National Team will compete for the Region Championship from April 23-May 8 in the Dominican Republic.

The USA will take aim at one of three berths to the 2022 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and is seeking to win its third-straight Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship after the 2020 tournament was cancelled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The USA won the last two editions of the tournament in 2016 and 2018.

The U-17s kick off the tournament on Saturday, April 23 vs. Grenada (Fox Soccer Plus & ViX), take on Puerto Rico on Monday, April 25 (FS2 & ViX) and wrap up the group stage vs. Costa Rica on Wednesday, April 27 (FS2 & Vix).

All of the U.S. group games will kick off at 4 p.m. ET.

Players born on or after Jan. 1, 2005, are age-eligible for the 2022 Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship. Astrain selected 15 players born in 2005, four born in 2006 and one born in 2007 — 14-year-old Melanie Barcenas from the San Diego Surf.

“We have a talented group of players and good depth on this roster,” said Astrain. “Our coaching staff is excited to help guide these young players through this valuable experience in international competition as they navigate the format of these World Cup qualifying tournaments. We’ll prepare for each game one at a time as we progress toward our goals and I know we are all going to learn a lot during our time in the Dominican Republic.”

2022 CONCACAF WOMEN’S U-17 CHAMPIONSHIP ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; HOMETOWN)

GOALKEEPERS (2): Abigail Gundry (NC Courage; Wake Forest, N.C.), Victoria Safradin (Internationals SC; Eastlake, Ohio)

DEFENDERS (6): Nicola Fraser (Real Colorado National; Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Alyssa Gonzalez (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.), Savannah King (LAFC SoCal Youth; West Hills, Calif.), Cameron Roller (Solar SC; Sherman, Texas), Keegan Schmeiser (Chicago FC United; Bolingbrook, Ill.), Gisele Thompson (Total Futbol Academy; Studio City, Calif.)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Mia Bhuta (Internationals SC; Pittsburgh, Pa.), Shae Harvey (Slammers FC HB Koge; Hermosa Beach, Calif.), Claire Hutton (World Class FC; Bethlehem, N.Y.), Riley Jackson (Concorde Fire; Roswell, Ga.), Charlotte Kohler (Mountain View Los Altos; Woodside, Calif.), Lauren Martinho (NC Courage; Cary, N.C.)

FORWARDS (6): Melanie Barcenas (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.), Onyeka Gamero (Beach FC; Cerritos, Calif.), Nicollette Kiorpes (NEFC; Worcester, Mass.), Mia Oliaro (NC Courage; Chapel Hill, N.C.), Melina Rebimbas (PDA; Warren, N.J.), Amalia Villarreal (Michigan Jaguars FC; Lansing, Mich.)

More on the US U-17s

The U.S. U-17s have had three training camps – two last fall and one in February of this year – to prepare for World Cup qualifying, but because of the cancellation of programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these will be the first international matches at the U-17 level for this group of players. Defender Gisele Thompson has prior Concacaf tournament experience as she helped the USA win the 2018 Concacaf U-15 Girls’ Championship in Florida. While the competition mostly featured players born in 2003, the U.S. brought a younger squad that featured 14 players born in 2004 and four in 2005, including Thompson.

Gisele is the younger sister (by 13 months) of Alyssa Thompson, who helped the USA qualify for the 2022 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup and win the 2022 Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship in March. Both Gisele and Alyssa play for Total Futbol Academy boys club teams in Los Angeles, Gisele for the U-16s.

The 2022 Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship features 20 teams — 16 divided into four groups of four plus four who have already advanced to the Round of 16 via a pre-tournament qualifying.

The top three finishers in the four groups will advance to the Round of 16 and join the four pre-qualifying teams that advanced directly for the knockout round. From there, the teams will play a single-elimination tournament with the two finalists and third-place game winner qualifying for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.

Eighteen different youth clubs from 11 different states are represented on the roster, with the San Diego Surf and NC Courage sending two players each.

Before heading to the Dominican Republic, the team will train in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. from April 14-19. Astrain will bring two alternates – defender Samantha Smith from the Boise Thorns and forward Taylor Suarez from Charlotte Soccer Academy — to the preparation camp for training purposes, but the players will not travel to the Dominican Republic, barring any injuries.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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