On Tuesday, U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team head coach Tab Ramos named a strong roster that will head to Korea Republic for this month’s FIFA U-20 World Cup. While a majority of the players are either closing or in the midst of their professional seasons, one is coming off helping another U.S. side qualify for its own World Cup.
Forward Josh Sargent just captained the U-17 MNT through the 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship, racking up five goals and two assists along the way as the U.S. earned a berth for this October’s World Cup.
“I found out right after we had qualified for the U-17 World Cup with our win against Cuba [last Friday],” Sargent told ussoccer.com. “Coach [John] Hackworth pulled me aside and told me I had made the U-20 roster. I was obviously very excited, I had a big smile on my face, but at the same time I knew I still had the Mexico game and I had to stay focused. I don’t even know how to explain it now. It was just an amazing feeling.”
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A standout player for the U-17 MNT – he has 19 goals and nine assists in 34 matches during the current cycle -- Sargent’s potential inclusion with the older side was something that had long been discussed between Hackworth and Ramos, who is also U.S. Soccer’s Youth Technical Director. While a key part of U.S. Soccer’s final U-17 Residency class in Bradenton, Sargent did get a taste of action with the U-20 MNT when he was part of Ramos’ camp at the National Training Center in January.
“John Hackworth and I have been discussing Josh for the last six months, trying to provide better and more competitive opportunities for him from a National Team standpoint,” Ramos told reporters during a teleconference Tuesday.
“We even discussed the possibility of him going to qualifying with the U-20’s, but at the time we thought we wanted to leave the U-17 team alone and have him go to help the team qualify for the World Cup, and he did a great job with that. So now we moved him up, and he’s already been in January Camp with us this year, so we know Josh fairly well at this level and I think he’ll do a great job.”
WATCH: Sargent Scores Stunning Equalizer vs. Mexico
At 17, Sargent is the youngest member of the U-20 World Cup roster and has the potential to join rare company. If he plays in Korea Republic and joins the U-17 MNT for their World Cup this fall in India, the O’Fallon, Mo., product would become just the second U.S. player to feature at two different youth World Cups during the same year, following Freddy Adu who was part of the U.S. roster at the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Championship in Finland and Youth World Championship in the United Arab Emirates.
In earning a place on the roster, Sargent credits the environment within U-17 MNT Residency for helping him grow during the past 18 months.
“Being down in Residency and being surrounded by other great players that are pushing you every day helps you achieve your goals,” he said. “More than anything, the mental side of my game has improved and I’ve just become a lot smarter with that aspect.”
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Developing that mental side will help him as he transitions back to the U-20 MNT. Following the U-17 MNT’s shootout defeat to Mexico in the CONCACAF Final on Sunday, Sargent returned to Florida with his teammates Monday and was back on a plane to join the U-20 group at the National Training Center in Carson, Calif., on Tuesday.
“To be honest I haven’t had much sleep the past couple days. A lot has been going, but I’m very excited and honored to have been chosen. Now I’m just ready to get back to work with the team. World Cups are huge. Being able to go with an older age group is really good for me. It’ll push me and help me realize just how good competition around the world is. Playing with these older guys will push me every day, and I think I can take that back with the U-17s to help make us more successful come October.”