The U.S. Under-20 Women’s Youth National Team returns to international action this week for the first time since last August at the 2022 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. The 2023 Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship is set for May 24-June 3 in the Dominican Republic and the USA is aiming to qualify for the 2024 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup while also playing for a record eighth Concacaf title.
Here are five things to know about the USA’s World Cup qualifying quest in the Caribbean:
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The biennial Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship will qualify three teams to the 2024 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup (for which a host has yet to be named) and crown a confederation champion for North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
While the last two Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championships have been contested with 20 nations and required seven matches to win the tournament, the competition has returned to the original eight-team format which features two groups of four teams each. The top two finishers in each group advance to the semifinals and the winners of those two matches will advance to the Championship Match and qualify for the World Cup. The winner of the Third-Place Match will earn Concacaf’s third and final berth in the World Cup.
The U.S. was placed into Group A and opens the competition against Panama on Wednesday, May 24 (7 p.m. ET on FS1), faces Jamaica on Friday, May 26 (6 p.m. ET on FS2) and finishes the group stage vs. Canada on Sunday, May 28 (6 p.m. ET on FS2). Group B features Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and host Dominican Republic.
ABOUT THE 2023 U-20 WYNT
Head coach Tracey Kevins has called up a versatile and talented 21-player roster to represent the United States in the Dominican Republic. Players born on or after Jan. 1, 2004, are age-eligible for the 2023 Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship. Kevins selected 13 players born in 2004, seven born in 2005 and one, forward Onyeka Gamero, born in 2006.
Unlike the USA’s last U-20 cycle, there are no professional players on the roster. This squad consists of 13 collegiate players and eight players from youth clubs. Five of the youth club players are from California with two from Slammers FC.
There are no holdovers from the squad that won the 2022 Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship, but forward Ally Sentnor and goalkeeper Teagan Wy were part of the USA’s 2022 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup roster. While Wy did not see action, Sentnor played in all three matches in Costa Rica and scored against Ghana.
Six players on the roster were a part of the USA’s 2022 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup Team: goalkeeper Valentina Amaral, defenders Ella Emri, Savannah King and Gisele Thompson, midfielder Lauren Martinho and forward Onyeka Gamero. All saw significant action during the World Cup in India.
Midfielder Shae Harvey was a part of the squad that won the 2022 Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship in the Dominican Republic, a tournament in which she scored four goals, but she did not make the World Cup squad later that year.
In that U-17 qualifying tournament, Martinho scored in the 2-1 victory against Mexico in the championship game, one of her four goals in the tournament. Gamero had five goals during U-17 World Cup Qualifying, including a tally in the 3-0 semifinal victory vs. Canada.
2023 Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship Roster by Position (College or Club; Hometown)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Valentina Amaral (Florida Kraze Krush SC; Oviedo, Fla.), Mackenzie Gress (Penn State; Lyndhurst, N.J.), Teagan Wy (California; Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (6): Tessa Dellarose (UNC; Grindstone, Pa.), Ella Emri (San Diego Surf SC; San Diego, Calif.), Elise Evans (Stanford; Redwood City, Calif.), Savannah King (Slammers FC HB Koge; West Hills, Calif.), Leah Klenke (Notre Dame; Houston, Texas), Gisele Thompson (Total Futbol Academy; Studio City, Calif.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Jasmine Aikey (Stanford; Palo Alto, Calif.), Sofia Cook (UCLA; Huntington Beach, Cali), Jill Flammia (Virginia; Manakin-Sabot, Va.), Shae Harvey (Slammers FC HB Køge; Hermosa Beach, Calif.), Ally Lemos (UCLA; Glendora, Calif.), Lauren Martinho (North Carolina Courage Academy; Cary, N.C.)
FORWARDS (6): Maggie Cagle (Virginia; Phoenix, Ariz.), Madeline Dahlien (UNC; Edina, Minn.), Jordynn Dudley (United Futbol Academy; Milton, Ga.), Onyeka Gamero (Beach FC; Cerritos, Calif.), Kat Rader (Duke; Stuart, Fla.), Ally Sentnor (UNC; Hanson, Mass.)
U-20s SERVE AS STEPPING STONE TO SENIOR USWNT
The USA has a strong record of success at this competition, qualifying for all 11 World Cups at this age level since 2002 (including the canceled 2020 U-20 WWC). This year, the U.S. takes aim at its record eighth Concacaf title at what will be the 12th Concacaf tournament at this age level.
A good number of future senior USWNT stars have showed well at the Concacaf Championship. Kelley O’Hara, Sydney Leroux and Mallory Pugh all took home Golden Boot honors, in 2008, 2010 and 2015, respectively.
During the 2022 Concacaf U-20 Championship, forward Alyssa Thompson scored three goals with five assists. The top pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft has three caps for the full USWNT and three goals so far this season for Angel City FC to lead the team.
Current USWNT forwards Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman helped the U-20 WYNT win the 2020 Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship. Rodman made a splash in Santo Domingo, netting five goals in the group stage finale vs. Honduras while also bagging braces in both the semifinal vs. Dominican Republic to clinch a World Cup berth and the championship match vs. Mexico.
Smith, plus defenders Tierna Davidson and Naomi Girma, midfielder Jaelin Howell and forward Ashley Sanchez helped the U.S. to a World Cup ticket and runner-up finish at the 2018 tournament in Trinidad and Tobago.
This year marks the 12th edition of the Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship, which began in 2002 as the CONCACAF U-19 Women’s Championship to qualify teams for the first-ever U-19 Women’s World Cup. That inaugural tournament was played in Trinidad and Tobago as the USA and Mexico won their groups and advanced to the World Cup in Canada.North America has dominated the biennial tournament - the USA, Canada or Mexico have finished as finalists at all 11 previous editions. In 2018, Haiti became just the second non-North American team to qualify for the U-20 World Cup with its third-place finish. Costa Rica is the only other Central American or Caribbean nation to qualify, finishing third in 2004, 2010 and 2014 before automatically qualifying in 2022 when it hosted the World Cup.