Top five African players to watch out for
(Compiled by Ed Dove)
Hadji Drame, 17, Forward
As the son of Djibril Drame, the former coach of Mali's home-based team, Hadji has always been under a brighter spotlight than some of his peers in the Aiglons' youth side.
More often than not, the attacker has lived up to expectations; he netted three times during Mali's run to the Under-17 African title in Gabon earlier this year - including a double in the 6-1 demolition of Angola - and also shone as Mexico were put to the sword in the International Dream Cup in Japan.
Issiaga Camara, 14, Defender
At only 14 years and nine months, Camara is the youngest player at the tournament, and had he been born two days later, he'd actually be ineligible for the competition. Instead, the Hafia Academy youngster will take his place in Souleymane Camara's Guinea squad as one of a quintet of players born in 2002.
Youssouf Koita, 17, Goalkeeper
While forward Djibril Toure stole many of the headlines during Mali's run to the U-17 Nations Cup title, goalkeeper Koita also deserves a significant portion of the plaudits.
Mali kept three clean sheets during the competition, and didn't concede a single goal during the knockouts. His finest moment came during the penalty shootout in the semi-final against Guinea, when the Syli Nationale failed to score any of their four spot kicks.
Mohamed Camara, 17, Midfielder
In that same aforementioned penalty shootout, Mali captain Camara missed his spot kick when he blazed wide. It was a rare black mark during an otherwise exceptional showing by the central midfielder.
He organised his team well, often presenting a sturdy barrier to opposing forwards in the heart of the park ahead of defender Mamadi Fofana, and led by example - notably netting the winner against Niger in the AFCON 2017 group stage as the Aigles around him wobbled.
Eric Ayiah, 17, Forward
Leading Ghana out in India is attacker Ayiah, who remains an exciting prospect despite an underwhelming showing in the U-17 AFCON final, when he could only finish tamely after Mali had taken a 1-0 lead.
However, failure in the final shouldn't overshadow an excellent tournament showing from the Dreams FC forward - he netted four in Ghana's first two group stages.
Reports in the local media suggested that Ayiah had agreed terms with FC Porto in the aftermath of the Youth AFCON, and while those reports were dismissed by the player's entourage, don't be surprised to see him emerge in a major European academy before too long.
Top five USA players to watch out for
(Compiled by Jeff Carlisle)
Josh Sargent, St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri, Forward
Sargent is the latest USA player to have fans salivating, a forward whose movement, finishing ability, and intelligence on both sides of the ball making him the player to watch for in the team. He'll join Bundesliga side Werder Bremen when he turns 18 in February, and is just the second USA player to feature in two different youth World Cups in the same year (Freddy Adu was the other).
"Sargent is a grinder, but a grinder with so much quality," USA manager John Hackworth said. "He has so much confidence, but he's as humble as he is confident."
Timothy Weah, Paris St. Germain, Forward
The son of former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah, the younger Weah has immense technical ability, as well as pace, and his ability to play with both feet enables him to play either wing in Hackworth's 4-3-3 formation.
"He's a joy to coach because his dad is pretty famous, but credit to his family, this is a kid that just comes to the training field every day with the desire to get better," said Hackworth. "Wherever we ask him to play, it's 'Yes coach, whatever you need coach.'"
Andrew Carleton, Atlanta United, Midfielder
Carleton is one of those performers who brings an attitude that he plays to entertain. That freedom can frustrate his coaches, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.
"In tough games, Carleton has no problem asking for the ball in the tightest of areas," said Hackworth. "And he's usually really good with it."
James Sands, New York City FC, Defender
In his cameos with NYCFC, Sands has played in the center of midfield, but he'll play center back for the USA team. His composure on the ball and intelligence should enable the team to play out of the back. He also brings competitiveness that reveals itself the most in critical moments.
"He can be ruthless," said Hackworth of Sands.
Jaylin Lindsey, D, Sporting Kansas City
A right-back wouldn't normally be a player to watch for a team, but given the way Hackworth encourages his full-backs to get forward and contribute to the attack, Lindsey does much more than just defend. Lindsey, who recently signed a Homegrown Player deal with Sporting Kansas City, can play center back as well.
"He brings a toughness to the outside back position, has good technique, and is fearless," said Hackworth.