As the calendar ticks over into 2018, so begins a new two-year cycle for the U.S. Soccer Youth Nation Team program. Five Boys’ and Men’s Youth National Teams are convening early this January in Lakewood Ranch, Florida for the first ever Men’s YNT Summit Camp.
Here are five things you should to know about this near program-wide YNT training camp that kick-starts the 2019 World Cup cycle.
WHAT IS THIS MASSIVE TRAINING CAMP?
The camp presents a valuable opportunity for alignment and integration between coaches, players and staff as each begins the 2018-19 World Cup cycle as the U-16 Boys’, U-17, U-18, U-19 and U-20 Men’s Youth National Teams train side-by-side.
U.S. Soccer Men’s Youth Technical Director Tab Ramos is excited by the opportunity to get all the players, coaches and staff on the same page during this important camp.
“I am looking forward to building on the success our Youth National Teams had over the last two cycles (2014-2015 and 2016-2017). This first ever Men’s YNT Summit Camp provides all of our teams the opportunity to team build and to continue the development of our style of play in one location together.”
The two-year player cycle, which officially began on Jan. 1, 2018, will conclude at the end of 2019 after the completion of the 2019 FIFA U-20 and U-17 World Cups. Upon resetting every two years, the age groups move up two levels: U-14’s become U-16’s, U-15’s become U-17’s, etc. While most players remain within their respective age group, sometimes younger players will get called in for opportunities to “play up”, especially at the two World Cup age groups, U-17 and U-20.
The teams in camp during the summit are training once or twice per day, participating in inter-squad scrimmages and conducting meals and meetings together. The Summit itinerary includes one large Team Integration Meeting, where Ramos will lead a discussion that will include speakers from the U.S. Soccer High Performance and Talent Identification departments, as well as each of the YNT head coaches. The biggest focal point of the event is simply integration between players, coaches, support staff and U.S. Soccer administrators. After the historic year the YNT program had in 2017, especially with the U-17’s and U-20’s finishing as quarterfinalists of their respective FIFA World Cups, Ramos has emphasized that the ground work is set for future success.
WHO’S ALL IS HERE?
One hundred and fifty-three of the USA’s top young players are gathering on the fields of Premier Sports Campus. The pool includes players currently playing in Academies across the U.S. and abroad, professionally, in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy and in college. Seventy-three players are currently playing for M.L.S. clubs or their Academies, while 19 ply their trade internationally in Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. The foreign leagues represented are: 3. Liga, Allsvenskan, Belgian Pro League, Bundesliga, Engligh Football League Championship, Danish SuperLiga, Eredivisie, La Liga, LigaMX and the Premier League.
The 19 international players are: Jonathan Amon (FC Nordsjaelland), Michael Baragan (Atlas FC), Shaft Brewer (RB Leipzig), Justin Butler (FC Bayern Munich), Gedion Davis (JMG Association Barcelona), Nick DeFreitas-Hansen (Everton), Sergino Dest (Ajax), Jalen Hawkins (FC Bayern Munich), Ian Hoffman (Karlsuher SC), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Brian Perez (Club Tijuana), Nebiyou Perry (AIK Fotboll), Joshua Pynadath (AFC Ajax), Stuart Ritchie (FC Groningen), Brady Scott (FC Köln), Lawson Sunderland (Levante UD), Juan Pablo Torres (K.S.C. Lokeren Oost-Vlaanderen), Angel Uribe (Club Tijuana) and Will Vint (Manchester United).
A total of 12 M.L.S. Homegrown players have also made their way to Lakewood Ranch: Jacob Akanyirige (San Jose Earthquakes), Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC), George Bello (Atlanta United FC), Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City), Andrew Carlton (Atlanta United FC), Chris Durkin (D.C. United), Anthony Fontana (Philadelphia Union), Chris Goslin (Atlanta United FC), Jaylin Lindsay (Sporting Kansas City), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), James Sands (New York City FC) and Brandon Servania (FC Dallas), who signed his professional contract this week.
WORLD CUP TESTED
Last year saw historic success for the USA at FIFA U-20 and U-17 World Cups. For the first time in program history, both the U-20 and U-17 U.S. squads advanced to the quarterfinals of their respective tournaments.
The summit marks the first return to camp for 13 of the players who competed at the 2017 U-17 World Cup in India. Five players from that team will play up with the U-20s as they begin their journey to qualify for the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup: Andrew Carlton, Chris Durkin, Chris Goslin, Jaylin Lindsay and James Sands. Seven World Cup veterans will compete for spots on the U-19 YNT: Justin Garces, Christopher Gloster, Akil Watts, Blaine Ferri, Ayo Akinola, Alex Budnik and Sergiño Dest, while Taylor Booth, who was called into the U-18 summit squad rounds out the returning U-17 World Cup vets.
Goalkeeper Brady Scott, who currently plays for Bundesliga club FC Köln, is the only player called in who was part of the USA’s 2017 FIFA U-20 World roster. The rest of the U-20 World Cup Roster, apart from Tyler Adams and Josh Sargent, will now compete to earn spots not only on the Senior Men’s National Team, but also the U-23 MNT, which will soon look to focus on qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Adams and Sargent, who most recently called into the Men’s National team are age-eligible, along with Scott, to participate in the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY TIES
A few weeks after more than 3,000 Boys’ Academy players came to compete against the nation’s best at the 2017 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase, 142 of the 153 players called to the YNT Summit have ties to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
With 228 games completed over the course of five days, the 2017 Winter Showcase provided ample opportunity for U.S. Soccer scouts to identify talent for inclusion in the YNT program. At the youngest level of the Summit, the entire 24-player U-16 Boys’ National Team roster currently plays for Academy clubs.
RETURN TO THE RANCH
Just a few weeks ago, the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch, Florida hosted the first premiere event of the 2019 YNT cycle: the 2017 Men’s Nike International Friendlies. Now the complex’s 23 full-size grass fields will host the 153 players on the five YNT squads for the Men’s YNT Summit.
While the Premier Sports Campus has been home to the Men’s Nike International Friendlies and Development Academy Winter Showcase since 2011, the Premier Sports Campus is a constant home to Men’s and Women’s Youth National Team training camps due to the warm Florida climate and first-rate facilities.