|Luca De La Torre||Midfielder|
Awarded the Golden Glove as the top goalkeeper at the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, Jonathan Klinsmann is back to anchor the defense for the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team as it prepares to open the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic on May 22 against Ecuador.
Here are five things you should know about the U.S. goalkeeper:
Making His Own Way
The son of a legendary World Cup winning striker for Germany and former U.S. MNT head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, Jonathan has carved a different path as a goalkeeper. Just like his father, the younger Klinsmann started out as a forward and only casually played goalkeeper with friends, but eventually
fell in love with the position as he joined the FC Bayern Munich youth team in 2008.
After moving back to California, Klinsmann was part of U.S. Soccer Development Academy side in Irvine, Calif. Klinsmamn made 33 appearances in his final season before moving on to college at the University of California.
Klinsmann enrolled at Berkeley in the fall of 2015, appearing in eight games while making four starts during his rookie campaign for the Golden Bears. His workload increased as a sophomore in 2016 as he appeared in 14 of Cal’s 17 games, including 12 starts. Klinsmann follows a number of other highly successful goalkeepers who have made their college home with the Golden Bears, a list that includes MLS veterans Josh Saunders (2001-02), Stefan Frei (2005-08) and U.S. MNT goalkeeper David Bingham (2008–10).
The Legacy of the American No. 1
The clear-cut starting goalkeeper for the U.S. U-20 team during qualifying, Klinsmann has appeared for U.S. Youth National Teams in a variety of age groups, including a U-23 camp in 2015 while just 18 years old. In 2016, he appeared in six of eight U-20 international matches for the U.S. Klinsmann has been between the posts for six of the team’s seven matches this year, with the U.S. recording a 4-1-1 mark in those games.
A native of Newport Beach, Calif., Klinsmann looks to follow in a long line of highly-decorated U.S. goalkeepers who have gone to the U-20 World Cup, a list that includes Tony Meola, Kasey Keller, Nick Rimando and Tim Howard.
The Man with the Golden Glove
At the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, Klinsmann won the Golden Glove as the tournament’s best goalkeeper, appearing in five of six matches at the competition as the U.S. claim its first U-20 regional crown. Klinsmann recorded a pair of clean sheets during the tournament, including one in the final against Honduras, a match the U.S. would go on to win on penalty kicks, 5-3.
A Busy Spring
Following the successful CONCACAF U-20 Championship in early March, Klinsmann kept himself sharp with a pair of training stints with European professional clubs. The first of the two stops was with one of his father’s former clubs in Germany, VfB Stuttgart; he also spent a portion of the spring with Everton of the English Premier League.
Shortly after his time at Everton, Klinsmann rejoined the U.S. in London for its final training camp before the selection of the 21-man squad for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup.Read more
U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team head coach Tab Ramos held a teleconference on Tuesday, May 9 to discuss his final roster for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic. The USA will open its World Cup campaign against Ecuador on Monday, May 22 (4 a.m. ET; FS1).
“We’re excited to be able to provide another great opportunity for our players. Attending and playing in a World Cup against the best players in their age in the world is a great experience for them. We’re also very proud that for the first time we get to travel to a World Cup as champions of our region. I’m looking forward to seeing how the team responds to that. Normally, we like to play the underdog role, and in this case, we remain underdogs but we go there as champions. I hope that we can really take this new experience as a good one and that this becomes more the norm rather than the exception. As far as the roster is concerned, I’m very happy with the roster that we have. As all of you know, this is a talented age group. In regards of whether we can say, ‘Is someone missing? Is someone not here? Or who else we could have to make the team better?’ I still think that the guys that are here will represent us well and that we have a good team.”
On how much opposition was received from European clubs for the release of players:
“To be fair, it’s always difficult to get players released. I think this time around we’ve developed some very good relationships with the European clubs as we have with M.L.S. clubs. This time more than any other time, we have players in M.L.S. who are actually playing for the first team and getting a lot of playing time. I have to say that M.L.S. has been great to us, and the relationship between U.S. Soccer and M.L.S. continues to grow. They’ve done a good job in recognizing that this is a good opportunity for their players, so I’d like to thank them.
In terms of the European clubs, we didn’t get any cooperation from Schalke at all, and we had very little cooperation from Fiorentina about Josh Perez. Other than that, we’ve gotten all the cooperation that we needed. There’s been some concessions on our side and some on theirs, and we’ve worked together pretty well.”
On the health status of defender Cameron Carter-Vickers:
“In terms of Cameron’s injury, at this point he’s been running and working mostly on fitness. We are hoping that within the next three-to-four days he’s going to continue to make progress and be available to us possibly early next week.”
On the players who weren’t part of qualifying, specifically Josh Sargent and Lagos Kunga:
“The guys who were not in qualifying that we have in the group here are our third goalkeeper Brady Scott – he’s a ’99 so he’s currently the number one keeper in our U-18 National Team. We’ve tried to do the best we can over the last couple of cycles to bring up as a third goalkeeper for different experiences what would potentially be our next number one goalkeeper for the following U-20 group. Then we have Derrick Jones, a player from Philadelphia Union that we wanted to include for qualifying but his FIFA paperwork took a little bit longer, so we couldn’t include him until now but he’s played for us before. We have Lagos Kunga, a younger player who’s coming through from Atlanta United, who has a lot of energy, speed, and can take players on. He’s an honest worker and has all the tools to make a lot of progress over the next one-to-two years. I think he can help us here, that’s why he’s on the team. Obviously, everybody knows Gideon. Gideon Zelalem was in the last U-20 World Cup and we welcome him back. He played a couple of games for us in October.
And finally, Josh Sargent. 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. We discussed even 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 the CONCACAF Championship 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. In the end, whether he plays the U-17 World Cup after this or not, I think the possibility will be there but it’s sort of the same scenario with Christian Pulisic and us. Some players sometimes outgrow their age group and they have to move on. We have to remember that the Youth National Teams are here to provide a good development experience internationally and I think Josh will get that with us hopefully, so let’s see what the future brings.”
On what he’s seen from Derrick Jones so far with the Philadelphia Union and what he hopes to see from him in this tournament:
“I watched Derrick Jones play in the USL last year pretty much the whole season. Not every game, but most games. Derrick did really well and that is why we called him to the National Team back in October. The rest has really been about paperwork. Derrick was with us all of January and in our full preseason cam, and we just couldn’t get the paperwork done in time for qualifying. Derrick Jones has been with us for a while now, and I’m very impressed with what he’s been able to do with the first team at the Union. Obviously, they haven’t been in a great situation to start and that’s difficult for a young player, but I think he’s done a great job and we expected that because he’s a good player.”
On including Cameron Carter-Vickers on the roster and how that affects Auston Trusty’s chances with the team:
“As far as Cameron is concerned, he was with us last month. He got injured with us, playing in the friendlies we had in England, so he’s been with us recently and he is close to coming back. In terms of Auston Trusty, he knows exactly what situation he’s in here. We have two center backs that we have called in, one is Cameron and the other one is Justen Glad, who have been injured. There’s a possibility that one of them won’t make it to the World Cup, and if they don’t, we have full confidence that Auston will do a great job. We have been very fortunate in this age group that we have quite a few center backs that we would feel comfortable putting on the field at any time, and Auston is certainly one of those. He’s here with us, but that’s the scenario with Cameron.”
On the selected players’ chances of being called to the full National Team by the 2018 World Cup:
“I certainly hope there is a chance, but I am not going to mention names because that has to be proven on the field. We have quite a few young players that are making their name in MLS and I think if they were to have a good U-20 World Cup, have good international games and then go back to their clubs and do well, certainly. Bruce has the door open to every player who’s capable of making a difference for the first team.”
On how this group will play differently than the group we saw in qualifying:
“The team is not a whole lot different. We now have Gideon in the center of the field and that will help us because he is a great possession player. We have to get him to make the game-winning type plays, so hopefully we get that. I think we have to recognize that a couple of months down the road now, we have Brooks Lennon with a lot more experience than he had two months ago. He’s been playing in M.L.S., getting 90 minutes almost every game, so we expect a lot more from him. [Emmanuel] Sabbi has been training a lot now -- he was in a difficult situation with Las Palmas, so he was not really fit in qualifying -- but I think we’ll get the best of him in this tournament. Then, I think Luca de la Torre will do a great job, and Sebastian Saucedo as well. He’s playing a lot for RSL and getting that experience in the first division. And obviously, we can’t forget about Josh Sargent. Josh can make an impact on this team.
Do I expect more from us? I absolutely expect more. We led the CONCACAF tournament in shots on goal. I think we had something like 81 shots and the second team had around 60, and yet we didn’t even lead the tournament in scoring. That says that we were not great up front in CONCACAF and we have to get better in the World Cup, because chances are that we won’t get as many opportunities.”
On the makeup of the roster and where Erik Palmer-Brown will play:
“This is not 100 percent resolved for us yet due to all the injures on the roster, but at this point, the idea is to have Erik Palmer-Brown play at the center back position. He is a center back. In CONCACAF, we were able to get away with him playing in the number six position, because he’s good enough to play that position. I do believe that he’s good enough to play that position down the road, but whether we are going to require or need that from him in this particular tournament, I’m not sure. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to put him in that position if we had to, but at this point the idea is to have him play center back.”
On Gedion Zelalem’s form and how much he will rely on him given his experience:
“We’re going to rely on him a lot. At this point I have to say in the last World Cup, although he was theoretically one of our big names, now he’s on the older side of the age group and he needs to be one of our leaders. We expressed that to him and so he has to be one of the guys that makes a difference for us. We’ve seen him practice now for the last three or four days and fitness-wise, he’s in a good place and playing-wise, he looks very good. At this point, obviously we haven’t played a game yet because the team is just coming in. This afternoon will be the first time we have a practice. We’ll actually have 18 players here this afternoon, so it will be the first one, but Gedion has looked very good and we’re excited about that.”
On Tyler Adams’ improvement and expectations for him in Korea Republic:
“That’s a very good question. It’s hard to say exactly what my expectations are because Tyler just keeps getting better and better. I almost want to set the bar for him so high that he can’t reach it. That’s difficult to do with such a young player because he is one of the younger players here. Tyler’s physical ability to cover ground and mental strength are really amazing for a young player. I certainly have not had, and I don’t want to put players behind him, but he is one of a kind. He’s certainly a very aggressive, young player and one we’re hoping has a tremendous impact on the team.”
On Tyler Adams being tested in M.L.S. and whether there is anything that has improved or needs to improve:
“He’s a young player. I think what has been surprising from my end is the fact that he has stepped into a team to play a central midfield role with the New York Red Bulls. I know the Red Bulls probably better than any other team in the league and I’ve watched them the most. He has done a tremendous job, just physically being able to play for a team that pressures high, that covers ground, that likes to have the ball, that likes to counter quickly. He’s fit right into their system and that’s impressive on the physical side for a young player. Now, what does he have to improve on? All these players have a lot to improve and Tyler obviously needs to hold on to the ball better, needs to distribute better -- there’s a number of things that he needs to improve on, but that all comes with time. And it comes with him adjusting to the speed of the game.”
On what Real Salt Lake is doing right that makes them such a contributor of players to the U-20 MNT:
“I really don’t know their formula, I just like good players so I pick them and they happen to be from there. I think the fact that they were one of the first, if not the first club, to have a residency program down in Arizona, I think that’s what has helped them the most and what put them ahead of the curve. By far, they have been the team that produced the most in this particular cycle of the national team. You take all five players they have and any player can be a starter on this team -- I think that’s a lot to say for one club.”
On whether Mukwelle Akale was not ready for the World Cup or if Villarreal wouldn’t release him:
“No, Mukwelle was one of those cases where I’m sitting here and I’m thinking, ‘How did I not pick Mukwelle?’ I mean, that happens every cycle. There are a couple of players every cycle that you look back and you go, ‘Wow.’ I just couldn’t fit him into what we want to do this time. Mukwelle could be here. He was in pretty good form last month and unfortunately there are only so many players we can pick. He certainly was one that is in good form and who could have helped us.”
On the form of Gedion Zelalem:
"Coming in, as I mentioned before, I was a little bit concerned with his form and what that would look like. But after having seen him for the last three or four days here at practice, I'm convinced that he's ready to do a great job for us. So no concerns there. I would have hoped that his career at this point would be a little bit more advanced in terms of, two years ago, he was already at Arsenal and he had already gotten some opportunities with the first team. Here we are two years later and we’re kind of looking at the same type of scenario, but I think after this World Cup he will likely make a move. That's my feeling -- to play first team ball somewhere in Europe if it's not in England alone, he'll move on somewhere else to play."
On not getting players from Schalke and Fiorentina:
"In terms of the Schalke situation and Fiorentina and potentially having those players here, yeah I think Josh [Perez] has been dealing with a little bit of an injury over the last few weeks, so maybe that would have been a more difficult one. But he’s certainly a player that we had pre-selected to come to the U-20 World Cup, except we've never had an opportunity to see Josh with us [in this cycle]. I think, in over a year now, he hasn't been released. That's really difficult to follow a player that's not playing on the first team, who's playing on their U-19's and at the same time we don't get to see him with us. So it would have been a tough pick for us, but one that we would have considered all the way to the end.
As far as Schalke, both Weston McKennie and Nick Taitague were guys that we would have liked to consider. Weston has been doing really well and Nick we like a lot because he’s a one-of-a-kind type winger who can take people on and break teams down, so I like both a lot. But we weren’t really given options with Schalke. Schalke was pretty straight forward in terms of, 'Our U-19's are more important than your national team, and so they are going to stay here until we are done playing.’ So that's something for other young players to look at. When they go to Europe, sometimes you're going to sign for a club which thinks that your national team is not that important at the youth level. So you have to deal with that."
On how the three returning players, and the entire team, has grown since the 2015 last World Cup:
"If I go one-by-one, I take Cameron Carter-Vickers. At the last World Cup, he was playing for the Tottenham U-23's, sometimes for their Under-19's. At times, he was captain of the U-23's, so he was starting to make progress. Obviously, this time around, he's been on Tottenham’s first team and obviously Tottenham is one of probably the top ten teams in the world today so that's a great place to be. He's playing with amazing players every day. Unfortunately, because of that, he hasn't been able to play as many games as he played the year before. So he's gone from playing anywhere between 40-55 games in a year to now playing only 10 or eight and that's difficult for a young player. So we've had to manage a little bit of that and that's why we've called him to a couple camps to see if we could provide him with a couple opportunities for getting him some extra games. Tottenham has been great with us, because they feel like the physiological part of the game is really important and Cameron is happy when he comes with us and he needs that. He needs the 90-minute games and so that's helped him.
“Erik Palmer-Brown is a completely different player than he was two years ago. He's really matured. Unfortunately, as you may have seen, he was injured in the final of CONCACAF and so he went back to Kansas City really not ready to compete for a first team spot as much as we would have liked. But I think certainly he is one of the best talents that we have, moving forward. Not only as a center back, but also as a number six, depending on the type of set up a team can have. He's incredibly talented, he's got great size. He's fast and obviously he’s a good soccer player overall.
“We just spoke about Gideon. He's made progress as well and a lot of his progress has been physical. He's much taller now. He can hold onto the ball even better now and I think he will have a little bit more of an impact in the games than he had the last World Cup. Although at the last World Cup, I thought he was excellent for us, with the type of team that we had.”
On how Eryk Williamson has stepped up to be able to compete with professionals despite still being a college player:
"As far as Eryk Williamson, Eryk just keeps surprising me every day I see him and I wonder how he's still in college. I went to watch him at a couple of games and to be fair, he didn't stand out that much in college. I went to watch a couple of Maryland games and the one specific game that I went to that was in New Jersey against Rutgers, I think he got subbed in and out of the game ether four or five times. For the type of game that we play internationally, it’s difficult to prepare yourself by getting subbed in and out that many times and I think that happens to a lot of college players. But having said that, he has one of the softest feet that I've seen with the National Teams in the last seven or eight years and that's something that I value a lot. And at the same time, he has great physical abilities. So Eryk is doing great for us and potentially he could be a starter, starting next week as well.”
On if his players looked comfortable defending and counterattacking at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship:
"No not at all, actually. We are not comfortable defending and I don't want us to be comfortable defending. I want us to have the ball. This is why we press high and this is why we try to win the ball as quickly as possible. If you ever find us defending, it's not because we want to, it's because we have to. Sometimes teams will connect passes and they force you to fall back a little bit. But it's not something that we're doing. As a matter of fact, when we meet with all the U.S. Soccer Youth National Team coaches, and we've had quite a few of these meetings, we talk about having a proactive type style in which we want to come after people. If you watched our Under-17's [at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship] it was no different. They came out, they pressed the ball, they tried to have the ball the whole time in the tournament, they were creating opportunities. Maybe the second half in the final against Mexico, they had a little bit more of the ball and that's going to happen at times. It’s not because it's something that we do, but it could be something that happens in the game."
On if he expects to continue with the same tactical approach in the World Cup from qualifying:
"Yes, because this is what fits our culture best. This is who we are, better than anything else. Our players want to make an effort. Our players want to work hard. Our players want to work for each other. They want to suffer for each other. They want to be in the battles and so I don't think we have a culture of players who just want to wait, sit back and counter. I just don't think it's how we are. So we're coming after people and sometimes we are going to win and sometimes we are going to lose."
On how Lagos Kunga earned a spot on the roster and his role on the team:
"Lagos only came to one camp, but he impressed us so much in the camp. He can do it all. He gets forward really well with speed. He understands the game. He has passion for the game. He loves this. You can tell that he can’t wait to get on the field every day and he makes plays. He takes people on, down the side. He gets balls in the box. He'll come back and defend if he has to. So he can do it all. The risk for us is that he may be a little bit green, in terms of his international experience, but I like the upside of what he has to offer and I'm hoping that this international experience will make him something even better for when he goes back to play for Atlanta."
On the challenges leading up to playing Ecuador:
"It’s definitely a difficult challenge. With the players that are here we've already talked about how this tournament certainly is different than the CONCACAF tournament. I always feel that the CONCCACAF tournament is long and we can plan that way because I think we have the talent to be able to plan for a long tournament. In the World Cup, any team can beat you. Certainly by getting the runner-up team in South America as the first team that we play, we already start with a final. So in this tournament we cannot afford to gradually get better. We have to come in already, 13 days from now, and play the first final. There is no other way. Ecuador has a very potent attack, they can counter really well and so our pressure, if it gets broken at different times, they could create some difficult opportunities for us, just like they did when they beat Argentina 3-0 and when they tied Brazil 3-3. They are extremely dangerous up front, but I think this will be a great experience for us and it's a game that we have to come out and that we feel that we have to win."
With the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team set to kick off Group F of the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup against Ecuador on Monday, May 22 (4:00 a.m. ET; FS1), U-20 MNT head coach Tab Ramos sat down with ussoccer.com to discuss the tournament and roster.
Ramos is entering his third FIFA U-20 World Cup as the USA head coach, having previously led the team in 2013 and 2015.
ussoccer.com: What were the challenges in determining the final roster?
Tab Ramos: “As always there were some extremely tough decisions to make. This is a talented age group. We feel confident in the group we have selected.”
ussoccer.com: How would you compare the selection process for this roster to your previous two U-20 World Cup rosters?
TR: “One important aspect is that cooperation by M.L.S. clubs keeps improving. The league is proving that they care about young American players and their full development by being supportive of these international competitive opportunities for them.”
ussoccer.com: The players on this roster who were not on the CONCACAF Championship roster, how did you go about selecting them and what are you hoping that they bring to the table?
TR: “We know that at the World Cup we need to be better than we were in qualifying, so the changes made were to add players who are in good form and make the team more competitive.”
ussoccer.com: What does Cameron Carter-Vickers bring to this team? What kind of influence are you hoping that he will rub off on the rest of the players?
TR: “Cameron’s playing style, demeanor and experience provide a confidence boost for the team and for players playing next to him.”
ussoccer.com: Josh Sargent has proven to be an elite player at the U-17 level. Can you speak on why he was selected and what qualities you’ve seen from him that have impressed you the most?
TR: “We have been following Josh and discussing the possibility of him playing here for six months. John Hackworth and I have discussed providing a more difficult challenge for him. He is very dangerous around the box, holds the ball well and his runs off the ball are runs you would normally see made by a much older player.”
ussoccer.com: The younger players on the team (Tyler Adams, Brady Scott and Josh Sargent) will also be eligible to play in the 2019 U-20 World Cup. Can you speak on the value of having youngers players who can contribute now and again in the future?
TR: “We tried to select the best team possible, so Tyler, Josh and Brady are with us because they deserve to be, not just because they are younger and are gaining more experience for the future.”
ussoccer.com: What positive things have you seen from Erik Palmer-Brown, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Gedion Zelalem in the last two years after they went through this experience in 2015? Do you think the 2015 U-20 World Cup impacted their development since that time?
TR: “Erik, Gedion and Cameron have already played a U-20 World Cup and that adds tremendous value to the team. This is their team now, and I am sure they cannot wait to get back in this competition after losing to Serbia on penalties in the quarterfinals of the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup.”
ussoccer.com: How would you describe the dynamics of this team, especially with 15 players brought back from the CONCACAF roster in addition to some new faces?
TR: “There is a wide range of skillsets on this team. This group can cause a lot of problems for opponents with its ability in transition, with the ball and without it.”
ussoccer.com: Having gone through youth World Cups as a player and now going into your third youth World Cup as a coach, what does this experience do for a player?
TR: “Whether you are a player or a coach, every opportunity to participate at the highest level always teaches you something new. You are always learning.”
ussoccer.com: What would you say that you most hope this group of players will get out of, and learn from, this World Cup experience?
TR: “My goal is always to provide the best environment and prepare them as well as possible so that they can do their best. I would like for us to continue our path of being consistent game after game, and tournament after tournament.”
ussoccer.com: What is the mindset of the team for the next 14 days before the first game against Ecuador?
TR: “We will utilize the preparation period to once again become a team. Unlike qualifying, in this tournament you have to be at your best from the first minute, otherwise it is very difficult to recover. Any team here can beat you.”
CHICAGO (May 9, 2017) – U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team head coach Tab Ramos has named a 21-player roster for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic, which runs from May 20-June 11.
“We are very excited to once again provide a great competitive opportunity to our players and are looking forward to heading to Korea Republic,” Ramos said. “As always there were some extremely tough decisions to make. This is a talented age group.”
An initial portion of the team departs for training camp in Japan on May 10, where remaining players will meet the group prior to the team’s arrival in Korea Republic on May 17.
The U.S. was drawn into Group F with Ecuador, Senegal and Saudi Arabia. The team opens group play against Ecuador on May 22 (4 a.m. ET), followed by matches with Senegal on May 25 (7 a.m. ET) and Saudi Arabia on May 28 (5 a.m. ET). The first two games will be played at Incheon Stadium in Incheon, while the third and final group game will be played at Daejeon World Cup Stadium in Daejeon. All of the U.S.’s group matches will be broadcast live on FS1.
Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jonathan Klinsmann (University of California; Newport Beach, Calif.), J.T. Marcinkowski (Georgetown; Alamo, Calif.), Brady Scott (De Anza Force; Petaluma, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (7): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake; Salt Lake City, Utah), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur FC; Westcliff-on-Sea, England), Marlon Fossey (Fulham FC; Surbiton, England), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (University of New Mexico; Las Cruces, N.M.), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City; Lee's Summit, Mo.), Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC; Oviedo, Fla.)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; Wappingers Falls, N.Y.), Luca De La Torre (Fulham FC; San Diego, Calif.), Derrick Jones (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.), Eryk Williamson (University of Maryland; Alexandria, Va.), Gedion Zelalem (Arsenal FC; Bethesda, Md.)
FORWARDS (6): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; Bethesda, Md.), Lagos Kunga (Atlanta United FC Academy; Tucker, Ga.) Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Emmanuel Sabbi (Unattached; Columbus, Ohio), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; O'Fallen, Mo.), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake; Park City, Utah)Read more
In the wake of winning its first CONCACAF crown earlier this month, the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team now puts its focus on the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup set for May 20-June 11 in Korea Republic. Drawn into Group F, the USA will play its first two matches of the tournament in Incheon on May 22 against Ecuador and May 25 against Senegal before closing out the Group Stage against Saudi Arabia on May 28 in Daejeon.
Here are five things to know about the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic:
Teams and Tournament Format
Twenty-four teams from the six FIFA confederations will participate in the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Each team qualified through its confederation’s qualifying tournament and were drawn into six four-team groups on March 15 in Suwon:
Group A Group B Group C
Korea Republic Venezuela Zambia*
Guinea Germany Portugal
Argentina Vanuatu Iran
England Mexico Costa Rica
Group D Group E Group F
South Africa France* Ecuador
Japan* Honduras USA*
Italy Vietnam Saudi Arabia
Uruguay* New Zealand* Senegal
*Indicates confederation qualifying tournament champion
The FIFA U-20 Men’s World Cup – which is staged every two years – features 24 nations divided into six groups of four teams each. The top two teams in each group, as well as the top four third-place finishers advance to the Knockout Round where the 16 teams play single-elimination matches all the way to the Final on June 11 in Suwon.
The 2017 tournament marks the 21st edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which was previously known as the FIFA World Youth Championship until 2007. Since its inception in 1977, a total of 90 associations have participated in the tournament. From 1977 to 1995 the competition featured 16 teams, before moving to 24 participants in 1997. The first two tournaments in 1977 and 1979 were played with 40-minute halves and 10-minute extra time periods. The switch to 45-minute halves and 15-minute extra time periods began at the 1981 tournament.
Nine nations have been crowned FIFA U-20 World Cup champions, with Argentina leading the way (6), followed by Brazil (5) and Portugal and Serbia with two each. One-time winners include the Soviet Union, Germany, Spain, Ghana and France.
U.S. History at the FIFA U-20 World Cup
The USA has taken part in 14 of 20 previous editions of the tournament and claimed its best finish in 1989 when they placed fourth. Featuring future MNT World Cup contributors, Kasey Keller, Mike Burns and Chris Henderson, the 1989 team defeated East Germany 2-0 in the Group Stage and Iraq 2-1 in the Quarterfinals before falling by the same score line in an extra time defeat to Nigeria in the Semifinals. While the U.S. fell 2-0 to Brazil in the Third-Place Match, Keller was awarded the Silver Ball as the competition’s second-best player, in a tournament performance that would catapult him to the USA’s 1990 World Cup squad and a move to English side Millwall.
More recently the U.S. has made three runs to the Quarterfinals, coming in 2003, 2007 and 2015.
The 2003 squad featured future National Team players Eddie Johnson, Ricardo Clark, Bobby Convey and a little-known attacker named Clint Dempsey. Group Stage wins against Paraguay (3-1) and Korea Republic (2-0), came before the U.S. knocked off Ivory Coast 2-0 in the Round of 16. Facing Argentina in the Quarterfinals, the U-20 MNT led Albiceleste thanks to a 59th minute goal from Convey. Just as it looked like the USA would score an historic victory, Javier Mascherano scored an equalizer in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time before Fernando Cavenaghi’s 104th minute penalty kick ended the USA’s hopes. With four goals, Eddie Johnson won the Golden Boot, the first U.S. male to win the award at a FIFA competition.
A star-studded group took to the field for the USA during the 2007 tournament in Canada. Thomas Rongen’s side included current MNT captain Michael Bradley, striker Jozy Altidore and midfielder Dax McCarty, as well as Freddy Adu, Robbie Rogers and Danny Szetela. Adu’s hat trick against Poland led the U.S. to a 6-1 win, while Altidore’s brace in the Group Stage finale saw the U-20 MNT earn an historic win against Brazil. In the Round of 16, Bradley scored an extra time winner to give the U.S. a 2-1 victory against Uruguay, but the side fell short in the Quarterfinals when they dropped a 2-0 decision to Austria.
Featuring current MNT players Kellyn Acosta, Paul Arriola, Emerson Hyndman and Matt Miazga, the 2015 team scored Group Stage wins against Myanmar (2-1) and hosts New Zealand (4-0) to push the side to the Round of 16. There, the USA earned a 1-0 victory against Colombia before falling in agonizingly in a 6-5 shootout defeat to eventual champions Serbia.
Another absent defending champion
Led by current Chicago Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic, Serbia won their second FIFA U-20 World Cup at the 2015 tournament in New Zealand. Despite that success, Serbia will not be able to defend their crown in 2017, as they were unable to reach the final round of UEFA’s U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament. This marks the fifth straight U-20 World Cup where the incumbent title holder will be absent from the field.
All 52 matches will be played in six cities in Korea Republic: Cheonan (Cheonan Sports Complex – 25,814 capacity), Daejeon (Daejeon World Cup Stadium – 39,654 capacity), Incheon (Incheon Stadium – 19,649 capacity), Jeju (Jeju World Cup Stadium – 29,346 capacity), Jeonju (Jeonju World Cup Stadium – 41,785 capacity) and Suwon (Suwon World Cup Stadium – 42,655 capacity). Jeju is the only host site not located on the Korean Peninsula, instead, games will be played in Seogwipo, the biggest city on the southern island province.
Excluding Cheonan, the other five venues also played host to the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
As the host nation, Korea Republic joins Mexico and Japan as the only nations to have hosted all four of FIFA’s international tournaments on the Men’s side. In 2001 and 2002, Korea Republic co-hosted the Confederations Cup and World Cup with Japan. Then, in 2007 they hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The country’s best finish across those three tournaments came when it finished fourth at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.Read more