Five Things to Know About the FIFA U-20 World Cup

By: U.S. Soccer
Twenty-one of the USA’s most promising young prospects have gathered in Poland to represent the red, white and blue at the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup. Entering as champions of Concacaf, they’ll join 23 of the world’s best teams at the 22nd edition of FIFA’s longest-running youth competition. Here are five things to know about the tournament.


Contested every two years, the FIFA U-20 World Cup crowns the world champion for soccer at the Under-20 age level. Players born on or after Jan. 1, 1999 are age-eligible for this year’s tournament. Twenty-four teams from around the globe have qualified through continental competition to earn their spots in Poland.

The USA qualified from North America alongside Honduras, Mexico and Panama. Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa carry the banner for Africa; Japan, Korea Republic, Qatar and Saudi Arabia represent Asia; France, Italy, Norway, host Poland, Portugal and Ukraine earned their berths from Europe; New Zealand and Tahiti come from Oceania, and Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Uruguay punched their tickets from South America.

The 24 nations were drawn into six groups of four teams.

Group A

Group B

Group C

Group D

Group E

Group F









New Zealand



Korea Republic











Saudi Arabia

South Africa

The top two finishers in each group, as well as the four best-ranked third-place teams will advance to the Round of 16. From there, it’s a knockout round bracket to the tournament final. The competition will be played at six venues across Poland.


Head coach Tab Ramos has assembled a deep, talented 21-player roster for the U-20 World Cup, with a developing at some of the world’s biggest clubs. Fourteen helped the USA during its dominating run to the confederation crown at the 2018 Concacaf U-20 Championship. Alex Mendez took home 2018 U.S. Soccer Young Player of the Year, mostly based on his standout performance in midfield at the tournament.

Brady Scott returns from the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, where he served as the team’s third goalkeeper, while six players represented the U.S. at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India. Tim Weah is the lone player on the roster to have debuted with the senior MNT, the attacker picking up eight caps in 2018.

GOALKEEPERS (3): CJ Dos Santos (Benfica/POR; Foxchase, Pa.; 2/0), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; Oxnard, Calif.; 4/0), Brady Scott (Köln/GER; Petaluma, Calif.; 9/0)
DEFENDERS (6): Sergino Dest (Ajax/NED; Almere-Stad, Netherlands; 8/1), Chris Gloster (Hannover 96/GER; Montclair, N.J.; 11/0), Aboubacar Keita (Columbus Crew SC; Columbus, Ohio; 2/0), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union; Bear, Del.; 10/3), Matthew Real (Philadelphia Union; Drexel Hill, Pa.; 10/0), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich/GER; Birmingham, Ala.; 8/0)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Edwin Cerrillo (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas; 0/0), Chris Durkin (D.C. United; Glen Allen, Va.; 2/0), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven/NED; Phoenix, Ariz.; 4/0), Alex Mendez (Freiburg/GER; Los Angeles, Calif.; 15/8), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas; Highland Village, Texas; 9/3), Brandon Servania (FC Dallas; Dallas, Texas; 8/2)
FORWARDS (6): Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC/CAN; Brampton, Ont.; 12/9), Konrad De La Fuente (Barcelona/ESP; Miami, Fla.; 2/1), Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg/GER; Lynwood, Calif.; 11/7), Justin Rennicks (New England Revolution; South Hamilton, Mass.; 13/6), Sebastian Soto (Hannover 96/GER; San Diego, Calif.; 5/2), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA; Rosedale, N.Y.; 0/0)

The roster is made up of made up of six players born in 1999, 12 born in 2000 and three born in 2001. Nine players are based domestically, while 12 are based internationally in Germany (six), Netherlands (two), Canada, Portugal, Scotland and Spain (one each). Nineteen of the 21 players have spent at least one season in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.


The U-20s enter the World Cup with a 13-2-0 international record and as confederation champions after an authoritative showing at last fall’s Concacaf U-20 Championship in Bradenton, Fla. Thirty-four teams competed in the World Cup qualifying tournament for four spots in Poland, and the U.S. rolled through its six-team group of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname by a combined score of 39-2.

The USA then advanced to a qualification stage group alongside Costa Rica and Honduras. A World Cup berth hung in the balance against Costa Rica, and the U.S. answered the call, taking down Los Ticos in a 4-0 shutout. Alex Mendez opened the scoring with a highlight-reel tally from distance in the early going, then Ulysses Llanez, Juan Pablo Torres and Ayo Akinola added goals to put the game out of reach. The U.S. then faced its tightest test of the tournament against Honduras, edging out a 1-0 victory on a goal from Akinola to clinch a spot in the confederation final.

The USA’s archrival Mexico awaited in the championship match, and the United States once again rose to the occasion. Mendez bagged a brace against El Tri, combining with Paxton Pomykal to create the opening goal in the 17th minute before Pomykal teed up Mendez again in the 50th. The U.S. commanded the run of play throughout, while the back line and Scott recorded the shutout.

The victory marked the USA’s second straight and second-ever Concacaf U-20 Championship title. During its 8-0-0 run, the U.S. outscored its opponents 46-2 and didn’t allow a single goal in the qualification stage against its strongest opposition.

Most recently, the U-20s gathered for two March friendlies in San Pedro del Pinatar, Spain, earning a 2-2 comeback draw with France and a 2-1 win against Japan. Thirteen players on the World Cup squad were with the team in those tune-up matches.


A who’s who of MNT legends have played in the U-20 World Cup. In total, 35 players have represented the USA in both a U-20 and senior World Cup tournament. Current U-20 MNT head coach Tab Ramos was a part of the USA’s second U-20 World Cup squad in 1983 at just 16 years old. Jeff Agoos, Marcleo Balboa, Tony Meola and Kasey Keller all played the 1987 edition in Chile. The team’s best finish at the competition came in 1989, as Keller and future senior team players Mike Burns, Neil Covone and Chris Henderson led the U.S. to fourth place in Saudi Arabia. Keller took home the Silver Ball as the tournament’s second-best player.

In 1999, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo and Tim Howard were part of the USA team in Nigeria, while Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and Oguchi Onyewu represented the red, white and blue in 2001 in Argentina. Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey took the field for the U.S. in Saudi Arabia in 2003. Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley starred for the U-20s at the 2007 tournament in Canada, while DeAndre Yedlin was the last player to appear in both the U-20 and senior World Cup, playing for the U-20s in Turkey in 2013 before joining the senior MNT in Brazil in 2014.

The last two U-20 World Cup cycles have fueled the senior MNT’s recent youth movement. Half the players on the USA’s 2015 U-20 World Cup roster have made their senior team debut, while six players from the 2017 squad have already picked up their first MNT cap.


The USA kicks off the U-20 World Cup on Friday, May 24 against Ukraine, face Nigeria on Monday, May 27 and wrap up the group stage on Thursday, May 30 vs. Qatar. All three matches will be broadcast on the Fox Sports family of networks and Universo. 

U.S. Schedule – 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup





Friday, May 24


Bielsko-Biiala Stadium; Bielsko-Biala

FS1, Universo

Monday, May 27


Bielsko-Biala Stadium; Bielsko-Biala

FS1, Universo

Thursday, May 30


Tychy Stadium; Tychy, Poland

FS2, Universo

Fans can follow all of the action from Poland on U.S. Soccer’s official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.