MNT Midfielders Kellyn Acosta and Paul Arriola Recall U.S. Run at 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup

With the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup ongoing in Korea Republic, memories from the last tournament are still fresh in the minds of MNT midfielders Kellyn Acosta and Paul Arriola.

Pivotal in the U-20 MNT’s run to the Quarterfinals in New Zealand, just two years later the pair now finds itself involved in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s crucial camp ahead of World Cup Qualifiers against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico.

“Two years ago at the U-20 World Cup, you see the first team and you want to be there,” Arriola told “I wanted to be here as soon as possible, as soon as I could, but I knew that I had to play well at the club level, and at that time luckily I had a great U-20 World Cup and our team was excellent, with full-on professionals that helped us throughout the tournament.”

“It was exciting times,” Acosta added. “It was one of my dreams to play in a World Cup and it was definitely a great experience. Overall we did a really good job and came up a little bit short losing to Serbia in PKs. We were close to being able to make that jump into the final.”

Drawn into Group A, the U.S. opened the tournament with a 2-1 win against Myanmar before an Arriola strike paced the USA to a 4-0 rout of hosts New Zealand. Though they dropped their final group match 3-0 to Ukraine, the team rebounded in the Round of 16 to take a 1-0 win against Colombia before a 6-5 shootout defeat to Serbia put the USA out of the tournament in devastating fashion.

Both players have followed the progress of the team currently in Korea. After playing to a 1-0-2 record to win Group F, this U-20 MNT crop also finds itself in the Round of 16 and with a rematch of sorts against New Zealand (Thursday; 7 a.m. ET on FS1 and Telemundo En Vivo).

Looking back, with a bit of luck the 2015 team would have been playing at least in a Semifinal. So now that the stakes are higher, what advice could be offered to the group now heading into the Round of 16 and beyond?

“With our group we understood that it was do-or-die,” Arriola said. “We faced Colombia in the Knockout Stage and it was an amazing team. They came out firing on all cylinders, and we came out having to defend a lot and then took our chances.  In these games it’s do-or-die, so you have to leave everything on the field because you don’t know if it’s your last game.”

As Arriola alluded to, some players may see their international careers end at the tournament, while others are just at the beginning. Both he and Acosta are the latest of 11 players in the current MNT camp that took the path from the U-20 World Cup to the senior team. They wish the same for the guys trying to accomplish something special half a world away.

“They’ve been doing a great job,” Acosta said. “Tab always has his teams ready and prepared, and now they have a big game coming up against New Zealand. Hopefully they can keep up the momentum and move forward.”

Current MNT Camp’s FIFA U-20 World Cup Experience


FIFA U-20 World Cup

Tim Howard


Nick Rimando


DaMarcus Beasley


Clint Dempsey


Jozy Altidore


Michael Bradley


Dax McCarty


Jorge Villafaña


DeAndre Yedlin


Kelly Acosta

2013, 2015

Paul Arriola