U-20 World Cup Roster

Weah, Pomykal, Mendez, Dest, & Richards highlight U-20 World Cup roster

The United States U-20 World Cup roster has finally been revealed and overall, Tab Ramos is bringing a very strong team to Poland. Some tough cuts had to be made, but the U.S. team has the talent to make a run in Poland. ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks down the team. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
May 10, 2019
10:00 AM
UNITED STATES U-20 head coach Tab Ramos named his roster for the upcoming U-20 World Cup in Poland where he will attempt to lead the team on another deep run at the biannual tournament.

There is a lot of anticipation for this team after it won the CONCACAF Championship for the second straight cycle back in November.

Many of the key players from that team are also on that roster including attacking midfielders Alex Mendez, who was named US Soccer’s young male player of the year in 2018, and Paxton Pomykal, who is enjoying a breakout season for FC Dallas.

The backline also remains mostly intact from the CONCACAF winning team as Bayern Munich’s Chris Richards and Philadelphia Union’s Mark McKenzie will make up the top central defense tandem. While Sergino Dest, Chris Gloster, and Matthew Real remain as the team’s fullbacks.

The midfield enjoys some significant upgrades from the qualifying team as DC United and 2017 U-17 World Cup captain Chris Durkin and PSV standout Richard Ledezma are part of the squad. Durkin had club conflicts in November while Ledezma was dealing with injuries at the time. Also, making his first major international debut will be Edwin Cerrillo who has broken into the starting lineup at FC Dallas but has never played with the U-20 team (with only very limited youth national team experience in his past).

The forward and wingers also remain mostly intact with one noticeable upgrade in Celtic FC attacker Tim Weah – who will make his U-20 debut at this tournament. Weah has not factored into this team as he had been playing with the full national team throughout most of 2018 and the U-23 team in March.

With that said, here is the roster along with some thoughts.

2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup Roster

(Club; Hometown; U-20 Caps/Goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3):C.J. Dos Santos (Benfica/POR; Foxchase, Pa.; 2/0), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; Oxnard, Calif.; 4/0), Brady Scott (Köln/GER; Petaluma, Calif.; 9/0)

DEFENDERS (6):Sergino Dest (Ajax/NED; Almere-Stad, Netherlands; 8/1), Chris Gloster (Hannover 96/GER; Montclair, N.J.; 11/0), Aboubacar Keita (Richmond Kickers; Columbus, Ohio; 2/0), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union; Bear, Del.; 10/3), Matthew Real (Philadelphia Union; Drexel Hill, Pa.; 10/0), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich/GER; Birmingham, Ala.; 8/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6):Edwin Cerrillo (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas; 0/0), Chris Durkin (D.C. United; Glen Allen, Va.; 2/0), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven/NED; Phoenix, Ariz.; 4/0), Alex Mendez (Freiburg/GER; Los Angeles, Calif.; 15/8), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas; Highland Village, Texas; 9/3), Brandon Servania (FC Dallas; Dallas, Texas; 8/2)

FORWARDS (6):Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC/CAN; Brampton, Ont.; 12/9), Konrad De La Fuente (Barcelona/ESP; Miami, Fla.; 2/1), Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg/GER; Lynwood, Calif.; 11/7), Justin Rennicks (New England Revolution; South Hamilton, Mass.; 13/6), Sebastian Soto (Hannover 96/GER; San Diego, Calif.; 5/2), Tim Weah (Celtic FC/SCO; Rosedale, N.Y.; 0/0)

Overall a strong but young team

For the second straight cycle, Tab Ramos will be without the two best players from this age group. In 2017, Ramos was without Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie. This cycle, Ramos will be without Tyler Adams and Josh Sargent – who were both also part of the 2017 U-20 team while playing up a cycle.

This year, however, Ramos will be able to assemble a very strong starting lineup if everyone is healthy. There are not many weaknesses among the first choice. Some of the backup positions are thin and some players like Mark McKenzie and Paxton Pomykal are carrying injuries. If they return, however, it should make for a powerful squad.

The biggest question mark is the backup right back position. Behind Sergino Dest, there are no players who are comfortable in that position.

But even for a U-20 team, this team is young. The oldest possible birth year for this tournament is 1999 and this roster consists of just six players born in 1999. It has 12 players born in 2000 – which is shaping up to be a remarkably strong birth year and it has three players born in 2001. Those three players in Konrad de la Fuente, Ulysses Llanez, and David Ochoa, are all eligible for the 2021 U-20 World Cup as well.

Typically, players from the oldest birth year are the most dominant on a U-20 World Cup team. But for just six out of 21 coming from that year, this U-20 team is extremely young.

Central midfield is the key

The biggest strength of this team is in central midfield where the team enjoys a lot of quality and depth. Chris Durkin should be the expected starter in defensive midfield while Edwin Cerrillo and Brandon Servania provide options to either backup Durkin or start alongside of him.

In attacking midfield, Alex Mendez, Paxton Pomykal, and Richard Ledezma are three of the most promising players the U.S. U-20 team has had at the No. 8 and No. 10 positions in several cycles.

Who starts in goal?

Often it is known who will start in goal and rarely is there a controversy. On this team, that is a big question. Brady Scott was the starter in the CONCACAF tournament in November but he has been dealing with injuries and a lack of minutes. Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa has been playing regularly for RSL’s USL team, the Real Monarchs.

Could Ochoa overtake Scott? It is very possible. Ochoa is very young and is one of the three players eligible for the next U-20 team. It is rare when a goalkeeper starts for a U-20 team while playing up a cycle, but Ochoa might actually make it happen.

Options abound up top

Barcelona winger Konrad de la Fuente is one of the most exciting players on the roster and he will make his debut in a major youth international tournament. Ulysses Llanez is also on the team and while he was the leading scorer at the CONCACAF Championship, he might also be rusty as he has not played much club soccer since he joined Wolfsburg after the season’s registration date – the day after his 18th birthday.

But Tim Weah is the biggest inclusion on this team and brings a wealth of experience. A veteran of the 2017 U-17 World Cup team, he also has a eight caps with the full national team and has scored for the first teams of Celtic and Paris St. Germain. Weah can play both center forward and on the wing. His versatility will give Ramos options.

Aside from Weah, Ramos also has center forwards Justin Rennicks and Sebastian Soto who both were part of the CONCACAF-winning team. Rennicks was sharp in that tournament and combined well with his teammates. Sebastian Soto has played fewer games with the team but is coming off a strong season with Hannover U-19 team which also saw him make two late cameos for the club’s first team in the Bundesliga. Meanwhile, Ayo Akinola also provides versatility across the front line.

Who is not here?

Ramos did not shy away from saying that there were plenty of good players he had to leave out.

“This is always an extremely tough decision to make as a coach,” Ramos said. “There were an additional four or five players who also really deserve to go this time.”

So which were the most noteworthy players not on this team.

Julian Araujo: The uber-talented Galaxy right back can also play in central defense. Arajuo was injured 10 days ago while playing for the Galaxy and has not returned to the field yet. Araujo is still only 17 and eligible for the next U-20 cycle.

Brenden Aaronson: The Philadelphia Union attacking midfielder has opened eyes to start this season and has been a big part of this team’s success. He suffered an injury in the Union’s most recent game but also seemed to be behind Pomykal, Mendez, and Ledezma.

Christian Cappis: The Hobro central midfielder had a great last camp with the U-20 team where he scored a late equalizing goal against France and a winning goal vs. Japan. A tall but skillful player, Cappis can deal with the physical game well but played a position that was extremely deep for the U-20 team.

Jonathan Amon: The lightening quick winger from FC Nordsjaelland in Denmark, Amon is a dynamic attacker but Nordsjaelland have games up to the start of the U-20 World Cup. Also, there are high number of wingers on this team at the moment in de la Fuente, Llanez, Weah, and Akinola.

Frankie Amaya: Frankie Amaya played a lot for the team this cycle (including throughout the qualifying tournament and in the 2-0 win over Mexico in the final) and was the first overall pick in the draft in January. He recently had a great outing for FC Cincinnati in his first professional start. He is extremely versatile but the team was very deep across all of his positions. The return of Ledezma and the inclusion of wingers made him fall on the wrong side of a numbers game.

Andrew Carleton: The Atlanta United attacker figured to be one of the team’s best attackers at the start of the cycle but he struggled for playing time over the past year while other players raised their respective games.

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