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U.S. Under-20 Men's Team

Which 21 Players Will Make the U-20 World Cup?

American Soccer Now's Brian Sciaretta keeps a close eye on the United States youth soccer programs, and today he takes a look at the players competing for a spot on the U.S. U-20 World Cup squad
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 19, 2014
12:41 PM
THE 2015 U-20 WORLD CUP in New Zealand doesn't get underway until May 2015, but Tab Ramos is already assembling and assessing the pieces for his team. So I thought I would take the opportunity to do some long-range speculating.

Yes, it's true that the U.S. U-20 team has to qualify first and 2011 proved that it is no sure thing. Thankfully, the format changed and it is possible to do well in the group stages and avoid a mandatory play-in game.

The qualifying roster will, of course, be different than the final team. Clubs are not required to release players for U-20 qualification and it is really difficult to predict which players will be made available. Ramos should have his pick of the top domestic players but foreign-based players become question marks for qualifying.

The most likely players to be denied a release are Rubio Rubin and Emerson Hyndman, as both play important roles for their European teams. After that it's difficult to predict the availability of players such as Andrija Novakovich, Fernando Arce Jr., Lynden Gooch, and Junior Flores.

But let’s say that the United States qualifies for New Zealand and Tab Ramos can select anybody he likes. Here is my take on the 21 best players as of this moment—including five athletes who are listed in the ASN 100.


1) Zack Steffen
2) Ethan Horvath
3) Santiago Castano


4) Shaquell Moore
5) Erik Palmer-Brown
6) Matt Miazga
7) Kellyn Acosta
8) Conor Donovan
9) Michael Amick
10) John Requejo Jr.


11) Emerson Hyndman
12) Russell Canouse
13) Romain Gall
14) Paul Arriola
15) Lynden Gooch
16) Junior Flores
17) Fernando Arce, Jr.


18) Rubio Rubin
19) Andrija Novakovich
20) Tommy Thompson
21) Zach Pfeffer

Others in the Mix: Ben Spencer, Marco Delgado, Joel Sonora, Bradford Jamieson IV, Amando Moreno, Luis Felipe, Tommy Redding, Mukwelle Akale, Benji Lopez, Jesus Vasquez

My Assessment

This team is still wide open at the moment and a lot can change at this age group. Right now the squad has a few talented defenders but the defense, as a whole, is thin. In central defense, Palmer-Brown and Miazga are the likely picks but after that there are not many solid options. In fact, Palmer-Brown, just 17-years-old, is also eligible for the 2017 U-20 team.

For a bit of perspective, the 2013 U-20 class in central defense featured considerably better talent—including John Brooks, Will Packwood, and Shane O’Neill.

The fullback positions are also not ideal. Potential team captain Acosta could start at right back although he is best used as a midfielder. Requejo, Jr. is the likely starter at left back, although Acosta has the ability to play on that side as well. This pair is likely good enough for this level but depth is a problem. An injury or two at the fullback position could jeopardize its chances in New Zealand.

The team’s real strength is in the midfield and the forward positions. Hyndman is the cream of the crop in the midfield and Canouse is a sturdy defensive midfielder. Arriola has been a consistent presence in the attack even if first team minutes at Club Tijuana have been tougher to come by this season. Gall is now seeing minutes with the Columbus Crew, which should only help him as well.

The forward position is very competitive for this team as Rubin could very well be the team’s best player and the dynamic Thompson is now breaking through at San Jose, making him close to a lock for the team. Pfeffer has fit very well into the team and has scored in just about every camp. Novakovich and Spencer could be in a battle to claim a target forward role although both players have the necessary skill and both have performed in camps.

Most interesting, however, is the quality of the attacking players who might not make the team. Jamieson was impressive in the last U-20 camp and Moreno has been a favorite of Ramos. Given the likelihood of Rubin missing qualifying due to his obligations with Utrecht, the other attackers should be given plenty of opportunities to impress.

Who would you like to see on the United States U-20 squad? Tell us your thoughts below.

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

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