U.S. U-20 analysis

January U.S. U-20 camp roster unveiled as the World Cup approaches

The U.S. U-20 roster for January is now announced and ASN's Brian Sciaretta walks you through his thoughts including which players have the biggest opportunity and who are the notable absences. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
January 19, 2023
12:30 AM

U.S. SOCCER on Thursday announced a 23-player U-20 roster for its camp that will run from January 19-29 in Bradenton, Florida at the IMG Academy. With Mikey Varas with the full national team as an assistant, this camp will be run by assistant coach and U.S. U-17 head coach Gonzalo Segares.

At this camp, the U.S. U-20 team will play two closed-door scrimmages with MLS teams.

The U.S. U-20 team is slated for one more camp in March before the U-20 World Cup in Indonesia gets underway on May 20. 

Here is the roster along with some thoughts:

The Roster

GOALKEEPERS (2): Antonio Carrera (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), Emmanuel Ochoa (San Jose Earthquakes; Salinas, Calif.)

DEFENDERS (8): Brandan Craig (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.), Mauricio Cuevas (Club Brugge/BEL); Marcus Ferkranus (LA Galaxy; Santa Clarita, Calif.), Alexander Freeman (Orlando City SC; Plantation, Fla.), Michael Halliday (Orlando City SC; Apopka, Fla.), Caleb Wiley (Atlanta United FC; Atlanta, Ga.), Thomas Williams (Orlando City SC; Titusville, Fla.), Joshua Wynder (Louisville City FC; Louisville, Ky.)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Alejandro Alvarado Jr. (Vizela/POR; Los Angeles, Calif.), Daniel Leyva (Seattle Sounders FC; Las Vegas, Nev.), Diego Luna (Real Salt Lake; Sunnyvale, Calif.), Jack McGlynn (Philadelphia Union; Middle Village, Pa.), Nicholas Pariano (Duke; Philadelphia, Pa.), Niko Tsakiris (San Jose Earthquakes; Saratoga, Calif.), Owen Wolff (Austin FC; Braselton, Ga.)

FORWARDS (6): Caden Clark (RB Leipzig/GER; Wayzata, Minn.), Jackson Hopkins (D.C. United; Fredericksburg, Va.), Roald Mitchell (Wake Forest; Montclair, N.J.), Korede Osundina (Orange County SC; Redmond, Wash.), Quinn Sullivan (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.), Tyler Wolff (Atlanta United FC; Austin, Texas)


Most of the core together


This roster consists of 13 players from the U-20 team which won CONCACAF in June, 2022 to qualify for both the 2023 U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics. Combined with the five U-20 eligible players who are with the full national team camp (Gaga Slonina, Paxten Aaronson, Jalen Neal, Jonathan Gomez, and Cade Cowell), we still have a good idea of who is seen as important to the team.

Varas is still looking to fill out his roster and release issues could still play a big role in who will be on the World Cup team. Varas has not surprised much during this cycle. He has found a core group and has only incrementally made changes.

The Philadelphia Four has become the Philadelphia Three after Paxten Aaronson departed to Eintracht Frankfurt. But Jack McGlynn, Quinn Sullivan, and Brandon Craig are still important to this team and are on this roster. If released, they are all locks for the U-20 World Cup. 

Alejandro Alvarado might not be a lock and it is also concerning that Vizela was willing to release him for this camp. His club minutes have been declining. He didn't have a great camp in September at the Revelations Cup but still has a great chance of going to the World Cup.

Diego Luna has also been at every main camp and should be considered a lock for the World Cup. Mauricio Cuevas was a co-captain with Daniel Edelman at the CONCACAF Championships and while his performances have been mixed, he has been core to this group. 

One of the players to watch in this group for this camp is Niko Tsakiris who is playing up a cycle as a 2005-born player. He impressed towards the end of the season last year with San Jose and looked to be improving quickly. He was on the roster last summer for the CONCACAF Championships but it wouldn't be surprising if he uses this camp to take a bigger role within the team. 


Promising newcomers


Which players on this roster who are not part of the core group have the biggest opportunity at this camp to play their way onto the World Cup team? Here are my thoughts:

Josh Wynder: Is the biggest newcomer on this team. The Louisville City central defender is one of the highest rated American prospects of the 2005-birth year. It is well within his ability to earn a spot in central defense on this team.

Alexander Freeman: The Orlando City homegrown right back has done well with the U.S. U-19 team and could put pressure on Marucio Cuevas for minutes. The right back position is a bit of a weakness on this U-20 team and there is an opportunity.

Caleb Wiley: isn’t necessarily a newcomer because he’s been in camps before (although not the CONCACAF Championships). But he is one of the best American teenage prospects in MLS and was impressive for Atlanta United. He could be a big part of the U-20 World Cup team.

Owen Wolff: The younger Wolff brother played regularly for Austin FC last year off the bench and sometimes in a starting role. He also played well for the U.S. U-19 team in 2022. He is also one of the players to watch in this camp.


Notable omissions


As with any U.S. U-20 camp, releases are a problem.

Team captain Dan Edelman was not released by the New York Red Bulls as he looks to take a big role with the team in 2023 and is remaining with the team for preseason.

With both Chris Brady and Brian Gutierrez not in camp, it likely points to the Chicago Fire not releasing either player. Chicago has been reluctant to release some players. Last summer for the CONCACAF tournament, they released Brady but did not release Gaga Slonina or Gutierrez.

Players in Europe who are with their first teams were likely not released or even requested. Kevin Paredes has made big strides at Wolfsburg this year and it has been tough for him to get involved. Rokas Pukstas has also been playing with Hadjuk Split’s first team and while he has been a regular with this U-20 team, he is not in this camp.

There are also some interesting dual national stories.

Ben Cremaschi was with the U-20 team in November and with the U.S. U-19 team earlier that year. He was later called up by Argentina’s U-20 team and was on the preliminary roster for the CONMEBOL Championships (that federation’s U-20 World Cup qualifiers starting next week) but was not selected for the final roster. He is a 2005-born player and is playing up a U-20 cycle for both the U.S. and Argentina. We don’t know if he was not released by Inter Miami, not selected by U.S. Soccer, or declined a call-up because he still favors Argentina.

Luca Koleosho played the Copa de Rey this week for Espanyol and has also been called up by Canada (and is eligible for Italy as well). U.S. Soccer has been in contact with him and with this camp not being binding, he likely was not released.

Obed Vargas is not on this roster, and he was important to the team at the start of the U-20 cycle before injuring his back in June. He subsequently missed the rest of the season for Seattle. But Seattle is currently involved with the Club World Cup and is therefore reluctant to release many people. They did cooperate and sent Daniel Leyva to this camp.

Justin Che has been with the team in the past and while he isn't quite a starter, thigs might be improving for him as he has had a nice winter camp with Hoffenheim. 

What can the team accomplish?

At this camp, the staff will hope to fill out depth in some key areas. Generally, the team feels good about midfield, central defense, and goalkeeping. The top two left backs are known in Caleb Wiley and Jonathan Gomez (at the USMNT camp) but who has the edge there? Right back is a bit more wide open and Cuevas might not be a lock to start if another option comes along. At this camp, clarity at right back would be helpful. 

If Varas has his top midfielders available, he likely has a good idea of who he will take to Indonesia. McGlynn, Aaronson, Edelman, Vargas, Pukstas, Alvarado, Tsakiris, and Clark make up the pool. Possibly Cremaschi if he gets involved. Not all will go, but most will. In this camp, developing chemistry and exploring combinations will be a priority. 

Developing a variety in the attack is also key. The team has been trying to play without a center forward since options earlier in the cycle did not pan out. But the U-19 team has called in a lot of forwards and, if someone emerges, can the staff also implement an alternative attack with a forward that is effective. If not, who can play the false nine role? It's difficult to go without a center forward and this team needs to continue to develop in that area for the World Cup. 

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