Five Things to Know: U-20 World Cup Qualifying

U-20 U.S. MNT
U-20 U.S. MNT

History of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship
From 1962 to 1996, the qualifying tournament was known as the CONCACAF Youth Tournament. During this era, 16 tournaments took place. The first four occurred in 1962, 1964, 1970 and 1973, and the rest followed a consistent, two-year pattern from 1974 to 1996. In 1976, the event first began to serve as qualification for the FIFA World Youth Championship, which later came to be known as the FIFA U-20 World Cup. It wasn’t until 1983 that an official Under-17 CONCACAF tournament was established, and as such many players 17 and younger participated in the U-20 qualifying tournament before that time.

From 1998 to 2007, CONCACAF held five tournaments without a decisive champion. The top two finishers from two four-team final round groups simply earned a spot at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Since 2009, the CONCACAF region has returned to a championship-style tournament where each semifinalist qualifies for the FIFA U-20 World Cup and the two finalists compete for the tournament championship.

Mexico owns the most CONCACAF Championship titles with 13, and is tied with the U.S. for the most appearances at the final tournament with 14 total.

Guatemala has been the most frequent tournament host, holding the event six times and most recently in 2011.

2017 Tournament Format
The tournament begins in a group stage, with 12 CONCACAF teams split into three four-team groups. After an initial round-robin schedule, the top two teams from each group will advance to the classification stage, featuring two groups with three teams each. In that second group stage, the top two finishers in each group qualify for the U-20 World Cup, and the first-place teams in each group move on to play for the tournament title.

When and How to Watch the USA
In 2017, each of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship games can be watched live on Facebook via the official CONCACAF Facebook page. Univision Deportes Network will also broadcast all of the USA games in Spanish.

The USA opens Group B play against Panama on Feb. 18 (3:30 p.m. ET), followed by Haiti on Feb. 21 (5:30 p.m. ET) and Saint Kitts and Nevis on Feb. 24 (5:30 p.m. ET). Should the USA finish in the top two of the group, they’ll advance to the classification stage to play two more matches on Feb. 27 and March 3, respectively. If the USA finishes atop its classification group, they’ll advance to the final, set to be played on March 5 (4 p.m. ET).

For those who travel to Costa Rica to watch the games in person, the USA’s first and third group matches will be played at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in Tibas, with the second match slated for Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose.

The USA Roster
Featured on the 20-player U.S. roster are center backs Tommy Redding and Justen Glad, who each had breakout years with Major League Soccer clubs Orlando City and Real Salt Lake, respectively. The squad of U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos includes four players with ties to foreign clubs in Luca de la Torre and Marlon Fossey (both of Fulham FC), while Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake) is on loan from Liverpool and Jonathan Gonzalez features for Liga MX side Monterrey’s U-20 team. The roster is rounded out by nine more players from M.L.S and five from the collegiate ranks.

Past World Cup roster experience includes De la Torre, Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union) and Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls) from the 2015 U-17 World Cup in Chile, and team captain Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City) from the 2015 U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. Redding and Glad were also participants in the 2013 U-17 CONCACAF Championship.

Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Jonathan Klinsmann (University of California; Newport Beach, Calif.), J.T. Marcinkowski (Georgetown; Alamo, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (7): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake; Salt Lake City, Utah), Marlon Fossey (Fulham FC; Surbiton, England), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (New Mexico; Casa Grande, Ariz.), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City; Lee's Summit, Mo.), Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC; Oviedo, Fla.), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union; Media, Pa.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; Wappingers Falls, N.Y), Luca de la Torre (Fulham FC; San Diego, Calif.), Jonathan Gonzalez (CF Monterrey; Santa Rosa, Calif.), Jeremiah Gutjahr (Indiana University; Bloomington, Ind.), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake; Park City, Utah), Eryk Williamson (University of Maryland; Alexandria, Va.)
FORWARDS (5): Coy Craft (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; Bethesda, Md.), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC; Plantation, Fla.), Emmanuel Sabbi (UD Las Palmas; Libertyville, Ill.)

Tab Ramos Looking For Three Straight
U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team head coach Tab Ramos is looking to become the first coach in U.S. Soccer history to lead the U-20 MNT to three straight World Cups.

A member of the U.S. squad at the 1983 FIFA World Youth Championship as a 16-year-old, Ramos first led the team to qualification for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup and finished as runner-up after falling 3-1 to Mexico in the final of the qualifying tournament.

In 2015, Ramos led the USA to the World Cup in New Zealand after finishing tied for third in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship before going on to a quarterfinal finish at the tournament proper that June.