Tab_ramos_-_asn_top_-_isi_-_u-20_camp_-_march_2019_-__david_aliaga David Aliaga/ISI Photos
Morning Update

U.S. U-20 scenarios for group finale, MLS musings, & much more

The United States will complete group play at the U-20 World Cup today against Qatar and ASN's Brian Sciaretta looks at the scenarios for advancing to the knockouts and who the team might play. Also, some thoughts on Wednesday's MLS action and a bad situation for Bobby Wood. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
May 30, 2019
6:00 AM
THE UNITED STATES U-20 team takes the field later today against Qatar and some roster turnover is expected although just how much remains to be seen. Tab Ramos still need to obtain a result to secure passage to the knockout stages.

So what results will lead to a particular finish? A lot will also depend on the result of Ukraine and Nigeria as well.

The U.S. U-20 Scenarios

If the U.S. draws Qatar

If the U.S. team draws against Qatar, it will go through to the knockout stages regardless – either as the third-place team or the second-place team in Group D. It will finish second in Group D if it draws Qatar and Ukraine beats Nigeria. It will finish third in Group D if it draws Qatar and Nigeria beats or draws Ukraine.

If the U.S. defeats Qatar

If the U.S. team defeats Qatar, it could finish first, second, or third in Group D. The easiest scenario that doesn’t involve goal differential is if the U.S. beats Qatar and Ukraine draws or beats Nigeria (probably the most likely scenario in terms of odds). If that happens the U.S. will finish in second place.

It gets very interesting if the U.S. team wins and Nigeria wins. That would create a three-way tie for first and goal differential between the three would determine the order of finish. Right now, but Ukraine and Nigeria have +2 goal differentials and the U.S. team has a +1 differential. A Nigeria win would at least bring it to a +3 differential. So, under this scenario, the U.S. team would have to beat Qatar by at least two goals more than Nigeria beats Ukraine. That would also give the U.S. team advantage in the subsequent tiebreaker – total goals scored.

If the U.S. loses to Qatar

If the U.S. team loses to Qatar, it becomes dicey for Tab Ramos (assuming the loss is within six goals. If it is more than six goals, the U.S. team finishes last and is immediately eliminated). The U.S. team could still advance but it will need to be among the top four (out of six) third place finishers. Third place finishers Poland and Ecuador completed their group play with four points, so the path to advance with three points is narrower.

But there still is a decent chance that at least two other groups will have a third-place finisher with no more than three points (which would send it to goal differential). Group C has Honduras and Norway facing each other and both have 0 points. So that will bring one third place finisher with at most three points. If the U.S. loses it will have to hope neither Norway (-4) or Honduras (-7) significantly improves its goal differential.

In Group E, the third-place team will finish with three or less points so long as Panama does not beat Saudi Arabia on Friday. A Saudi Arabian win see it finish third with three points with its current goal differential (-3). A draw will have Panama finish third with just two points.

In Group F, as many as three teams could finish with three points. Argentina is in command with six points, Portugal and South Korea have three points, and South Africa has zero. Assuming Portugal gets a result against South Africa (a likely result), South Korea will finish third on three points if it losses to Argentina. South Korea has 0 goal differentials.

So the U.S. team will have some realistic outs if it loses a Qatar but those odds become slim if it loses by more than one goal, Norway routs Honduras (or Honduras beats Norway by an enormous margin), South Korea draws or beats Argentina, or Saudi Arabia beats Panama by a healthy margin.

In theory, there is also the chance the U.S. team could actually finish second in Group D, if it loses to Qatar and Ukraine beats Nigeria by multiple goals to the point where the Nigeria falls behind the U.S. team on goal differential. 

Potential Knockout opponents

If the U.S. team finds a way though to the knockouts, who will it face?

  • If the U.S. team wins Group D, it will face the third-place team from either Groups B (Ecuador), E (likely Panama or Saudi Arabia), or F (most likely South Korea but possibly Portugal).
  • If the U.S. team finishes second it will face the winner of Group E. That will either be France or Mali – which face each other on Friday. France needs a win or a draw to win Group E but Mali will win the group if it defeats France. France is considered a tournament favorite.
  • If the U.S. team finishes as one of the top four third-place teams, it will either face Italy (on Sunday – short rest), or Senegal on Monday.

Wednesday’s MLS action

There were five gams in MLS on Wednesday night and there were a few things that caught my eye.

For one, Atlanta played about as well as it has under Frank de Boer in a convincing 3-0 win over Minnesota. Guzan made an incredible flurry of saves in the second half but overall, the game was all Atlanta with Josef Martinez scoring two late goals.

Chicago traveled to Audi Field and came away with a 3-3 draw against DC United. DC United should be very disappointed that it squandered two points against a beatable opponent but Chicago can be dangerous when its key players are in form. U.S. international and U-23 hopeful Djordje Mihailovic scored a deflected goal but played well. The late equalizer from Francisco Calvo came from a great ball from Bastian Schweinsteiger. DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid somehow didn’t get carded.

Two things caught my eye in Colorado’s surprising 1-1 draw away at Philadelphia in a match delayed by a storm. The first is that U.S. U-23 winger Jonathan Lewis, who scored for Colorado, produces goals and assists a healthy rate and hopefully he will play more in Colorado. He can still serve a big role with the U.S. U-23 team as it attempts to qualify for the Olympics.

The second is this such a bad look for Colorado. Tim Howard might be in his final season as a player, but it really appears as if he has moved on mentally. Between serving as a commentator for Champions League games, Howard was not at Colorado’s game last night but instead watching Memphis (which he is a co-owner) in the US Open Cup. He was listed as only questionable due to a hamstring strain but still did not want to be with his team in an actual game.

Finally, Zlatan is back for the Galaxy after serving a suspension and he scored and assisted in a 2-0 road win over Sporting Kansas City. The Galaxy might still have a lot of holes to fill on its roster, but Zlatan can do an awful lot to bridge the gap for whenever that is possible. Meanwhile, Sporting Kansas City continues to struggle with an injury-depleted roster.

Vegas wants MLS

Last night in the Open Cup, Las Vegas Lights fell to Orange County SC by a 5-3 scoreline at home. It was pretty cool with regards to seeing former U.S. national team greats Eric Wynalda and Paul Caligiuri coach against each other.

But earlier in the day, Las Vegas announced that it wanted to take steps to move into MLS and would build a new stadium.

It might work, but at best it still looks years away from being awarded a top-division team.

Wood's bad situation

Bobby Wood has a great contract that pays him over $3 million annually. But after playing for two consecutive clubs that were relegated out of the Bundesliga, Hamburg is looking to move him – but no one will take him on his salary. The club is, reportedly, even considering demoting him to the reserves in hopes he will take a buyout.

What a mess.

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