USMNT and U-20 team learn summer draws for CONCACAF titles

There will be a lot of CONCACAF soccer to watch this upcoming June and July as the U.S. national team learned its Nations League semifinal opponent and the U-20 team had its World Cup qualifying draw. ASN's Brian Sciaretta reports.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
November 20, 2019
1:00 PM
THE UNITED STATES national team and U-20 national team both learned their schedules for official competitions in the upcoming 2020 Summer. CONCACAF on Thursday revealed the draw for the final round of the Nations League and the 2021 World Cup qualifying draw.

Here is a look at the schedule for both teams. 

Nations League semifinals

With the United States defeating Canada and Cuba over the last week to advance to the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal in June, it also learned how the knockout stages will be setup.

The United States will face Honduras in its semifinal in June. The other semifinal will feature Mexico and Costa Rica. The winners will face each other in the ensuing days and there will be a third-place game.

The specific dates, locations, and venues are still to be determined.

U-20 World Cup qualifying set

The United States U-20 team does not have a coach but it does know its schedule for World Cup qualifying after Wednesday’s draw. The hosting nation and venues are still yet to be announced.

The tournament will take place in June and July this upcoming summer and the top four teams from the region will qualify for the 2021 U-20 World Cup in Indonesia.

The draw on Wednesday revealed the following. Groups A through D is a separate tournament for smaller nations.

Group E: United States, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Saint Kitts and Nevis
Group F: Mexico, El Salvador, Canada and Aruba
Group G: Panama, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname
Group H: Honduras, Cuba, Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda

Under the format, the top three team from each group advanced to the Round of 16 after a round robin format. Those 12 teams will join four teams from the earlier tournament of smaller nations to complete the 16-team knockout field.

The knockout stages are single-elimination and the four semifinalists qualify for the U-20 World Cup.

The knockout bracket is as follows. These are the Round of 16 matchups and the corresponding quarterfinal match-up for a spot in Indonesia. 

1E vs. 1D
2G vs. 3E

1G vs. 1B
2E vs. 3G

1F vs. 1C
2H vs. 3F

1H vs. 1A
2F vs. 3H

If the U.S. U-20 team finishes in the top three of Group A, there are three paths to Indonesia.

Scenario 1

If the United States wins Group E, it will face the champion of Group D from the previous tournament in the Round of 16 (that group is Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands and Barbados). If it gets by that round, it will face the winner of the runner-up of Group G and the third-place team from Group E for a spot in the U-20 World Cup.

Scenario 2

If the United States finishes second in Group E, it will take on the third-place team in Group G in the Round of 16. If it advances from that, it will face the winner of a match between the champion of Group G and the champion of Group B from a previous tournament (that group is Dominican Republic, Grenada, Dominica and Anguilla) for a spot in the U-20 World Cup.

Scenario 3

If the United States finishes third in Group E it will face the runner up of Group G in the Round of 16. If it gets by that, it will face the winner of a match between the champion of Group E and the Champion of Group D (see above) for a spot in the World Cup.

The initial take is that the United States and Mexico were kept apart and there is no way the two teams can play before the U-20 final. Each group has a corresponding group. For Group E, it is Group G which is Panama, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname.

So, while the U.S team has a tricky group opponent in Costa Rica (judging by historical standards), there are several paths forward that give it a fair chance to qualify. But knockout stages are always tricky and upsets can happen.

The early qualifying campaign has both pros and cons. The obviousl con is that there is very little preparation time. The pro is that a summer schedule makes releases for top players more likely - particularly among the European based players (for the U.S. that would be key players like Konrad de la Fuente, Ulysses Llanez, Cameron Harper, Charlie Kelman, Gio Reyna, Ian Hoffmann, Taylor Booth, Matteo Ritaccio, and Indiana Vassilev).

The U.S. team will attempt to win its third straight CONCACAF U-20 title and qualify for its fifth straight U-20 World Cup. But all those achievements were under previous head coach Tab Ramos. U.S. Soccer will need to hire a U-20 head coach soon and one that can prepare a team quickly for an important qualifying tournament.

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