U-20 team analysis
Sizing up the U-20 team a month before qualifying camp opens
Next week, Tab Ramos will submit his 35 player preliminary U-20 World Cup qualifying roster and in less than a month, the qualifying team will be assembled in Florida for final preparations. It is a very important time for the hosting U.S. U-20 team and Brian Sciaretta looks ahead at the tournament.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedTHE UNITED STATES is set to host CONCACAF’s U-20 World Cup qualifying next month and it will be an exciting time for fans of American youth national teams as it is very rare when U.S. youth teams play meaningful stateside.
September 26, 2018
September 26, 2018
Typically U-20 qualifying games are played on bad field conditions, in front of small crowds, and typically in the Caribbean or Central America. This year the games will be played on nice fields at IMG Academy in Florida.
The format of this tournament is very different. There are six groups of five or six teams. After a round robin is complete among the groups, the six group winners move onto the qualification stage of two groups of three. The top two teams from those two groups qualify for the World Cup and the group winners advance the CONCACAF final.
After the first group stage is complete, the six teams that advance will be allowed to make six changes to their roster. The players added must come from the provisional 35 player roster.
Here are the important dates to keep in mind for the U.S. team.
October 2: the 35 player provisional rosters from each of the teams is due
October 22: the 20 player World Cup roster is due and the provisional roster can no longer changed for injury. The U.S. team will probably open camp 1-3 days after the roster is released.
October 31: The 20 player provisional rosters can no longer be changed for injury. Any injury replacement after October must come from the 35 player provisional roster.
November 10: this is the first day after the U.S. team will wrap up group play. If the U.S. team wins it’s group, the changes will have to be submitted on November 10 with the deadline being 24 hours after the final groups stage game.
Here are somethings to keep in mind.
The provisional 35 player roster must include four goalkeepers and the 20 player World Cup roster must include two goalkeepers. Typically, the 35 player roster is not made public.
The three second group stage games, also known as the qualification round, will all fall into the FIFA international window. Clubs never have to release players for youth games but are typically more willing to do so during international windows.
The MLS playoffs could factor into the equation for several players. Philadelphia’s Mark McKenzie, Sporting Kansas City’s Jaylin Lindsey, New York City’s James Sands, and even DC United’s Chris Durkin could be impacted. Historically, however, MLS teams have been very cooperative with U.S. youth national teams and none of the players mentioned above is a clear starter.
The schedule is brutal in the first group stage with teams playing every other day.
The United States Group A schedule
November 1: USA vs. Puerto Rico (7:30pm ET)
November 3: USA vs. U.S. Virgin Islands (7:45pm ET)
November 5: USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago (7:45pm ET)
November 7: USA vs. St. Vincent & the Grenadines (7:45pm ET)
November 9: USA vs. Suriname (5:30pm ET)
Here is a prediction of what the 35 player provisional roster might look like.
Goalkeepers: Brady Scott, Trey Muse, C.J Dos Santos, Justin Garces
Defenders: Mark McKenzie, Chris Richards, Lennard Maloney, Sam Rogers, Jaylin Lindsey, Sergino Dest, Manny Perez, Chris Gloster, Matthew Real, Sam Vines
Midfielders: Chris Durkin, Alex Mendez, Brandon Servania, Richard Ledezma, Juan Pablo Torres, George Acosta, Paxton Pomykal, Andrew Carleton, Taylor Booth, Jonathan Amon, Frankie Amaya, James Sands, Ulysses Llanez, Nick Taitague, Andres Jimenez
Forwards: Ayo Akinola, Shaft Brewer, Konrad de la Fuente, Justin Rennicks, Sebastian Soto, Josh Sargent
Goalkeepers (2): Brady Scott, Trey Muse
Defenders (7): Mark McKenzie, Chris Richards, Lennard Maloney, Jaylin Lindsey, Sergino Dest, Matthew Real, Chris Gloster
Midfielders (8): Chris Durkin, Alex Mendez, Brandon Servania, George Acosta, Paxton Pomykal, Andrew Carleton, Ulysses Llanez, Frankie Amaya
Forwards (3): Justin Rennicks, Sebastian Soto, Ayo Akinola
Qualifying Stage Changes
Should the United States advance out of Group A, Tab Ramos can make several changes to his roster. Some will be preplanned and there are indications that Josh Sargent, Nick Taitague, and Jonathan Amon could be three players added.
But Ramos probably cannot preplan all six subs. One or two will probably be needed to hold open in order to cover for injured players from the first stage.
Change 1: Josh Sargent for Ayo Akinola
Change 2: Jonathan Amon for Frankie Amaya
Change 3: Nick Taitague for Justin Rennicks
Change 4: Richard Ledezma for George Acosta (pending Ledezma’s injury)
Change 5: Held open
Change 6: Held open
Some NotesThe MLS playoffs are certainly a factor for Ramos. The knockout stage games will take place October 31 and November 1. The Conference Semifinals first leg will take play November 4 and the second leg will be on November 11.
That does give Ramos a little wiggle room for allowing some players – like McKenzie or possibly Durkin – to travel back and forth if needed. McKenzie was the U-20 captain at the last camp and is the most likely to be impacted.
Richard Ledezma is by far one of the best players on this team but he is carrying an ankle injury and his status is questionable. Likewise, Nick Taitague is also pressing to comeback after dealing with a wave of injuries over the past year.
Another player injured at the moment is Philadelphia Union left back Matthew Real who is recovering from a knee sprain and wasn’t able to play at the last U-20 camp.
There are two very key age-eligible players for this team I did not include on the provisional roster: Tyler Adams and Tim Weah. Both players saw significant minutes in the last two U.S. friendlies. It would be very surprising to see Adams have any involvement with the U-20 team this cycle before the World Cup – although the World Cup next year might be a possibility if Ramos wants to push to have his best players to make a serious run.
Tim Weah’s involvement is not as far-fetched. He is at Paris St. Germain right now and the extraordinary talent at that club is limiting his minutes. He is only 18 and it is still way too premature to say he’s “beyond” youth national team soccer at this point. I left him off for qualifying as of now but I do think he is an option for the World Cup, if the U.S. qualifies. If he plays in qualifying, however, I would not be shocked.
Tab Ramos recently went to Europe to monitor his players and Josh Sargent was one. According to quotes from Werder Bremen coaching staff, they acknowledged that Sargent playing for the U-20 team in November was likely.