The progression achieved by New Zealand football over the past decade can be illustrated by the make-up of Darren Bazeley's under-20s squad.
Results are no easier to achieve on the world stage but there has arguably never been such a deep pool of talent in Kiwi football.
The number of professional players in the Junior All Whites has increased nine-fold in the past eight years, as young Kiwis get a broad range of opportunities.
At the 2007 Under-20 World Cup, only one player in Stu Jacobs' 21-man squad came from a professional environment - Chris James at Fulham. There were another four players drawn from American universities (including Aaron Clapham and Dan Keat) and another playing state league in Australia. But the majority were playing amateur football in New Zealand.
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The Junior All Whites failed to qualify for the 2009 tournament, finishing third at the Oceania qualification event. That squad featured just two players in full-time football: Greg Draper and Kosta Barbarouses at the Wellington Phoenix.
The team for the 2011 Under-20 World Cup in Colombia were drawn almost totally from New Zealand domestic football, with all six defenders and each of the five forwards in the squad based at ASB Premiership franchises or in Northern or Central League teams. Only goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic (SV Wehen Wiesbaden) and midfielders Marco Rojas (Melbourne Victory) and Cameron Lindsay (Blackburn Rovers) were at professional set-ups. Chris Milicich's team did remarkably well in a tough group, achieving 1-1 draws with Cameroon and Uruguay before falling 1-0 to eventual finalists Portugal.
Since that tournament, the number of players selected from professional programmes has increased exponentially. In 2013 in Turkey, more than one-third of Milicich's squad were full-time footballers. They included five in England (among them Cameron Howieson and Max Crocombe) and three from the A-League.
This time, less than half of the 21-man squad come from New Zealand domestic football. There are four European-based professionals, including Bill Tuiloma (Marseille) and Monty Patterson (Ipswich), five contracted to the Phoenix and two from American universities. There's little doubt the advent of the Phoenix academy has helped.
"The talent pool is increasing all the time," said Milicich. "The Phoenix have had the biggest effect, especially since Ernie Merrick has been in charge and brought a lot of New Zealand players into the system. [But] there seems to be more opportunities at overseas clubs and that is no longer limited to just England. Our guys end up all over Europe."
Over the past few years, there have been New Zealand players in Italy, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Russia, Holland, Finland and Sweden, as well as Canada, Japan, Singapore, China, Thailand and South Africa. It's probably not any easier to make it as a fully-fledged professional - there is more competition on a global level than ever before - but local players are getting chances to shine at younger ages.