The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team will be participating in the 2016 Four Nations Tournament from Oct. 2-11 in Manchester, England. Throughout the tournament they will face high-caliber opponents in Germany, Netherlands, and England. For the U-20’s head coach Tab Ramos, this is a perfect opportunity to continue to prepare for the U-20 World Cup next summer.
“Germany and England have already qualified for the U-20 World Cup,” Ramos told ussoccer.com. “We’re looking forward to playing those teams since they are opponents that, if we were to qualify, we could potentially see down the road in late May of next year. We know the way Germany plays, and they’ve also invited players who are playing professionally so they will be a very difficult opponent. Playing against them will provide a great experience for our guys.”
The U-20 MNT takes on Germany on Oct. 5 to kick off the Four Nations tournament in Manchester, England. They will then face Netherlands on Oct. 7 and later close out the tournament on Oct. 10 against the hosts England.
Ramos also emphasized the importance for the U-20’s to have a variety of camps throughout the year. Given the difficulty of getting the best, strongest team available together for every camp, he has shifted his focus to evaluating different players at different times. He achieves this by strategically selecting his rosters. Some of this year’s camps alone have featured a mostly domestic roster, a roster combining college and professional players, and a strictly college player roster. Thanks to location of the Four Nations tournament in Manchester, Ramos is seizing the opportunity to call up mostly professional players, including MLS and European clubs.
Regarding the European based players, Ramos notes, “It’s difficult for them to travel and I normally don’t want to interrupt their club performance, so I don’t call as many European-based players into domestic camps. When we go to Europe it’s easier because it doesn’t interrupt as much and they don’t have to travel as far, so I try to call them in. For me it’s an opportunity to see them in meaningful games and evaluate how far they’re coming along, because the plays that they make in this particular environment really matter looking into the future.”
The Four Nations tournament will also mark the return of Gedion Zelalem and Cameron Carter-Vickers to a U-20 National Team camp for the first time since the 2014 World Cup. Ramos trusts that the experience and leadership of these two players will carry over to this camp and that they are able to emerge as mentors to the rest of the U-20 squad. Additionally, Ramos expects these two call ups to send a message to the rest of the players.
“It shows the rest of the team that whoever gets selected for this camp is part of an elite group of players that we decided to invite for this tournament.”
Therefore, the roster for the Four Nations tournament will be a lot more comparable to a World Cup roster than a camp or Qualifying roster. However, Ramos believes that consistency of play is key to the U-20 MNT’s future success.
“We find it very difficult to go from one good result to the next, although the U-20’s have done pretty well this year. If we are able to be consistent in these next three games, it will be a huge step for us. That’s the number one thing that I think will be important going into these games.”