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Everything you need to know: The FIFA U-20 World Cup

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The long-awaited return of the U-20 World Cup is just a few days away, and after months of speculation, the tournament is finally set to go ahead in Argentina. The United States will be one of 24 teams vying to be crowned U-20 world champions, and to win a trophy that hasn’t been awarded since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite several key absences, Mikey Varas’ team is still considered one of the strongest ever sent to the tournament by the U.S., and they’ll be on a mission to make a statement to the rest of the world.

What is the U.S.’s history in the U-20 World Cup?

The U.S. has traditionally performed well at the U-20 level and has reached the quarterfinals of the last three editions in 2015, 2017, and 2019. The Americans have only missed qualification once since 1995, and since 1989, they’ve reached the knockout stages in 11 of the 13 editions of the competition. Their best finish was 4th place in 1989 led by Kasey Keller and Chris Henderson, and while they’ve consistently gone far in the tournament, that remains the only semifinal appearance for the U.S. in history.

Each of the last few U-20 cycles has produced at least a few senior national team players, and the majority of the current senior team played for the youth national teams at some point. Current USMNT players who shone at the U-20 World Cup in recent cycles include Sergiño Dest, Chris Richards, Mark McKenzie, Tim Weah (2019), Tyler Adams, Josh Sargent (2017), Cameron Carter-Vickers, Erik Palmer-Brown (2015 and 2017), Matt Miazga, Paul Arriola (2015), Zack Steffen, Kellyn Acosta (2013 and 2015), DeAndre Yedlin (2013), and Sean Johnson (2009).

Who will the U.S. face?

The U.S. was drawn as the top-seeded team in Group B alongside Ecuador, Fiji, and Slovakia. Naturally, Ecuador stands out as the biggest test among the group stage opponents; they were the team that knocked out the U.S. en route to a third-place finish in 2019, and boast one of the top young talent pools in the world. Slovakia will also prove a difficult test, having drawn the U.S. earlier this year and qualifying out of a crowded European region. Fiji, admittedly, should be a cakewalk; they qualified as the second-placed team in Oceania, who are granted two berths for competitions such as these.

All three of the U.S. group matches will be held at Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario. The newly-renovated 25,000 seater stadium in San Juan, Argentina, has hosted a few big games in the past, including a 2022 World Cup qualifier between Argentina and Brazil. It is one of the four Argentine venues for the competition, with the others being at Estadio Único Diego Armando Maradona (La Plata), Estadio Único Madre de Ciudades (Santiago del Estero), and Estadio Malvinas Argentinas (Mendoza).

The tournament will be played between May 20th and June 11th.

Who is on the U.S. roster?

The full roster selected by coach Mikey Varas is listed below. All players born January 1st, 2003, and later were available for selection, barring those who are injured or were not released by their clubs:

GOALKEEPERS (3): 21-Alex Borto (Fulham/ENG; South Plainfield, N.J.; 2/0), 12-Antonio Carrera (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas; 4/0), 1-Gaga Slonina (Chelsea/ENG; Addison, Ill.; 5/0) 

DEFENDERS (7): 17-Justin Che (Hoffenheim/GER; Dallas, Texas; 6/0), 5-Brandan Craig (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.; 10/1), 2-Mauricio Cuevas (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 13/1), 14-Marcus Ferkranus (LA Galaxy; Santa Clarita, Calif.; 11/0), 13-Jonathan Gomez (Real Sociedad/ESP; Keller, Texas; 6/0), 3-Caleb Wiley (Atlanta United FC; Atlanta, Ga.; 5/0), 4-Joshua Wynder (Louisville City FC; Louisville, Ky.; 2/0) 

MIDFIELDERS (7): 6-Daniel Edelman (New York Red Bulls; Warren, N.J.; 10/0), 10-Diego Luna (Real Salt Lake; Sunnyvale, Calif.; 16/4), 8-Jack McGlynn (Philadelphia Union; Middle Village, N.Y.; 16/2), 20-Rokas Pukstas (Hajduk Split/CRO; Stillwater, Okla.; 12/1), 15-Niko Tsakiris (San Jose Earthquakes; Saratoga, Calif.; 5/3), 18-Obed Vargas (Seattle Sounders FC; Anchorage, Alaska; 4/0), 16-Owen Wolff (Austin FC; Austin, Texas; 3/1) 

FORWARDS (4): 9-Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; Ceres, Calif.; 7/2), 11-Kevin Paredes (Wolfsburg/GER; South Riding, Va.; 6/2), 7-Quinn Sullivan (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.; 15/7), 19-Darren Yapi (Colorado Rapids; Denver, Colo.; 3/0)

Who won’t be there?

A point of controversy over the last few months has been the release of players for the U-20 World Cup. Several of the top players in the 2003/2004 age group were not permitted by their clubs to miss league games to go to the tournament.

The most notable absence, for this reason, is Brian Gutiérrez, who has had a breakout season for the Chicago Fire and has been their best attacking player so far in 2023. This tournament would have been a great opportunity for him to showcase himself on the global stage, but his importance to the club came first. Paxten Aaronson, who won the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship last year, was not released by Eintracht Frankfurt after earning numerous first team appearances this Spring. The third likely starter who wasn’t released was Jalen Neal, who would have been the team’s most experienced defender and most important center back.

A few other players won’t be there either. Ricardo Pepi is age-eligible but was not brought as he has graduated to the senior national team. CONCACAF Championship Golden Glove winner Chris Brady could have possibly pushed for the starting goalkeeper job, but as he is the starter in Chicago as well, he was not released. Noel Buck, an ‘05, was arguably a roster snub, as he is enjoying an excellent season with New England. Alex Alvarado didn’t make the cut after shining at the CONCACAF Championship. Caden Clark, Michael Halliday, Noah Allen, Thomas Williams, and Jackson Hopkins are some other players who have been involved previously during the cycle but didn’t make the final squad.

Kevin Paredes and Rokas Pukštas will both join the team late and arrive in time for the knockout stages. They were not released by their clubs, as Wolfsburg have key matches in the hunt for Europe, and Split has a Croatian Cup final. Cade Cowell is suspended for the first match due to a suspension picked up during a brawl at the CONCACAF Championship.

Who are the players to watch?

Despite a few key absences that lower the ceiling of this team, there are still several players who have very bright futures in front of them, and are certainly worth keeping an eye on during this tournament.

Gaga Slonina is the big blue-chip talent of this cycle. The Addison, Illinois native and Chicago Fire Academy product had a steller 2022 campaign in MLS, keeping 12 clean sheets, and earned a blockbuster $15 million transfer to English giants Chelsea. His game is very well-rounded, as he is competent with his feet in addition to his strong shot-stopping ability. While he has some areas to improve, particularly his decision-making, Gaga is well on his way to becoming one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and could soon challenge to break into the senior USMNT.

Perhaps the most talented outfield player in this group is Kevin Paredes, who has already broken into top-half Bundesliga club Wolfsburg. Had some poorly-timed injuries not gotten in the way, there’s a very real shot that he would have made the 2022 senior team World Cup roster, and he was even close to making the Gold Cup roster as far back as 2021. The dynamic winger, who can play on either side or as a left back, will have the opportunity to showcase his excellent dribbling ability and clinicality in the final third if the U.S. advances to the knockout stages.

Left back is arguably the strongest position on the roster. Not only was Caleb Wiley released for the tournament by Atlanta United, but Jonathan Gómez is also a part of the group to head to Argentina. Wiley has had a phenomenal start to the season with Atlanta, breaking into their lineup and registering numerous goal contributions. After making his senior USMNT debut with a brief cameo against Mexico last month, he’ll be looking to raise his stock even further at the U-20 level, whether that be at left back or on the wing. Gómez’s momentum has slowed down over the last year and a half, but he is still a tremendously talented player, who will be very valuable for this group.

In addition to Slonina, Wiley, and Gómez, there is one other player with senior men’s national team appearances: Cade Cowell. The 19-year-old has had his ups and downs in his young career, but should still be a dangerous player at the U-20 level. His pace and athleticism bring something different to the U.S. attack, and he’s shown in friendlies that he can play on the international stage. His San Jose teammate, Niko Tsakiris, was a surprise inclusion since he was recovering from a long injury layoff. He was born in 2005, and is one of three players in the team playing up a cycle.

Joshua Wynder is one of them. The Benfica-bound Louisville City center back is America’s top defensive prospect at the moment, and he has forced his way into this team over the last few months. Breaking into a team two years up, especially as a center back, is not a small feat, and this World Cup will be a great opportunity for Wynder to showcase himself ahead of his European move. Obed Vargas, of the Seattle Sounders, is also only 17, and he just came back from a months-long back injury. Vargas, who was born in Anchorage, Alaska, is a great midfield talent who broke into the Sounders team over a year ago and helped them win the CONCACAF Champions League when he was just 16.

The Philadelphia Union trio of Brandan Craig, Jack McGlynn, and Quinn Sullivan are all likely starters. McGlynn in particular is worth keeping an eye on, as he has broken into Jim Curtin’s starting XI for an immensely talented Union team that reached MLS Cup last season. Roka Pukštas has improved leaps and bounds since the CONCACAF Championship last year, and is now a regular starter for Hajduk Split in Croatia; in this tournament, he’ll be playing for a move to a bigger European league, and there’s no doubt scouts from the top five leagues will be watching. One-time Bayern Munich loanee Justin Che returns to the group; he’ll likely play right back and will be hoping to get back on most peoples’ radars after failing to break in with Hoffenheim over the past twelve months. He still has the talent to be a top defender, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to prove it yet.

How will the U.S. line up?

Are there any players from other teams to keep an eye on?

Many countries had the same release issues that the U.S. had for this tournament; in fact, France had as many as 28 players blocked from participating. Nonetheless, several top prospects will be in Argentina this month.

One player the U.S. will have to contain will be Ecuador’s Kendry Páez. The 2007-born midfielder just celebrated his 16th birthday last week but is already a first team player for Independiente del Valle, and the teenage sensation has agreed to join Chelsea when he turns 18. 19-year-old Nilson Angulo is another Ecuadorian player to watch out for, as he has broken through with Anderlecht and has been capped by the senior national team.

Italy are bringing Simone Pafundi to the World Cup; the 17-year-old became the third youngest player in history – and the youngest in over a century – to debut for the Italian national team when he appeared against Albania last November at 16. Chelsea loanee Andrey Santos will captain Brazil at the World Cup having made his senior international debut earlier this year. England are bringing several familiar names as a part of their squad, most notably Chelsea prospects Carney Chukwuemeka and Harvey Vale. Liam Delap and Canada-born Daniel Jebbison are also included. The host, Argentina, will be led by Máximo Perrone, a Manchester City prospect who was called up to the senior national team in March.

Yáser Asprilla is one of Colombia’s top prospects. The Envigado product now plays for Watford in the Championship, for whom he appeared 37 times this season, and he’s been capped twice by Colombia. A trio of U.S.-born players will join him in Colombia’s team: Juan Castilla, Devan Tanton, and Fernando Álvarez. Both Castilla and Tanton have represented U.S. teams in the past, while Álvarez was born in New York City but is also eligible for Mexico.

CONCACAF nations are littered with Americans, and while Mexico didn’t qualify this time around, the delegations from Guatemala, Dominican Republic, and Honduras include plenty of U.S.-eligible players. The most significant are FC Cincinnati’s Arquimides Ordóñez (Guatemala), Inter Miami’s David Ruiz (Honduras) and Edison Azcona (Dominican Republic), and Houston’s Xavier Valdez (Dominican Republic), who is particularly notable as he was called up by the U.S. earlier in the cycle.

A few other Americans are scattered elsewhere. Japan’s star center back, Anrie Chase, is U.S.-eligible, as he is the son of an American father. The Stuttgart defender has trained with Japan’s senior team, so it currently seems unlikely he’ll ever represent the United States. The Israeli team is the reason that the tournament was moved last-minute from Indonesia to Argentina, and they contain one American-born player; El Yam Kancepolsky of Hapoel Tel Aviv was born in Honolulu, ensuring that with the help of Obed Vargas, both Alaska and Hawaii will be represented at this World Cup.

How can I watch?

The group stage matches will be held this week, on May 20th, 23rd, and 26th. The matches will be shown on Fox Sports networks and on Telemundo. All networks are subject to change.

U.S.A. vs. Ecuador – May 20th – 2pm ET – Fox Soccer Plus/Telemundo

U.S.A. vs. Fiji – May 23rd – 2pm ET – FS2/Telemundo/NBC Universo

U.S.A. vs. Slovakia – May 26th – 2pm ET – FS2/Telemundo/NBC Universo

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Club News

The Top 10 Americans in Europe this Season

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The season is over for most of the major European leagues and compared to last season, this was a better season for Americans in Europe.  The US had several Americans win a trophy this season or were promoted with their club.  Both Tim Weah and Weston McKennie won the Coppa Italia, while Cameron Carter-Vickers won the double in Scotland.  You also had Nick Gioacchini, Gianluca Busio, and Tanner Tessmann gain promotion to Serie A in their respected clubs.  In this article we will cover who we consider to be our top 10 Americans this season in Europe.  The stats information for each player comes from FotMob.

Lennard Maloney

Few Americans played in the Bundesliga this season and even fewer had a good season in the German topflight.  Lennard Maloney was one of those Americans who had a successful Bundesliga season.  Maloney was the main central defender for the newly promoted club Heidenheim.  Last season, he helped them win the 2. Bundesliga to get their first ever promotion to the Bundesliga.  This season, he helped Heidenheim qualify for the UEFA Conference League, their first ever continental competition.  Few American soccer players can say they have that accomplishment.  It was only until this season did Maloney get his first call-up to the USMNT.  Maloney was spectacular on the stats sheet, but it was what he did off the ball that made him one of the best American players this season in a top European league.  At one point during the season, Maloney was leading in distance covered.  His ability to stop the opposition’s transition to the attack helped Heidenheim to have 1.6 goals conceded per match and a possession of 42.1%.  Maloney outperformed 97% of Bundesliga midfielders in aerial duels won and 90% in defensive actions.  Between the Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal, Maloney started in 29 matches out of 31 matches played with 2 goals and 1 assist.  He also had an 83.5% passing accuracy, 69.4% long ball accuracy, 29 tackles for 80.2%, 79.1% aerial duels won, 29 interceptions, and 144 recoveries.  For me, Maloney barely makes it in the top 10 list due to his low stats.  His accomplishments for Heidenheim and being a major piece to their successful season can’t be ignored.

Chris Richards

April 21, 2024: Crystal Palace v West Ham United Premier League 21/04/2024. Chris Richards 26 of Crystal Palace during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and West Ham United at Selhurst Park, London, England on 21 April 2024. Editorial use only DataCo restrictions apply See www.football-dataco.com , Copyright: xNigelxKeenex PSI-19528-0101 (Credit Image: © Imago via ZUMA Press)

It took a while for Chris Richards to get a start for Crystal Palace and it was worth the wait.  When Richards began getting minutes this season, it was at defensive midfielder.  He took people by surprise with his solid performances in the position.  With the injury of Marc Guehi and Crystal Palace moving to a back 3, Richards became a lock starter in the defense.  It was rocky at first for him, but that all changed when Oliver Glasner took over the club.  In the first match under the new manager, Richards got a goal.  Richards became one of Crystal Palace’s best CBs.  In the 30 matches played, Richards started in 27.  Richards finished ahead of 83% of the CBs in the Premier League in aerial duels, and 66% in both defensive actions and goals.  Across all competitions, Richards had 1 goal and 1 assist, 85% passing accuracy, 59.2% tackles won, 54.5% duels won, 37 interceptions, and 106 recoveries.  There is hope next season for Richards.  Guehi is gathering interest from other EPL clubs once again and Glasner will be returning next season.  If Richards retains his starting role next season, we could see Richards be one of Palace’s best defenders.  Due to not appearing in every match, having some inconsistent matches before the Glasner Era, and not unlocking his full potential this season until Glasner took over is why Richards is 9th on my list.

    Josh Sargent

    Norwich City v Southampton – Sky Bet Championship – Carrow Road Norwich City s Josh Sargent during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich. Picture date: Monday January 1, 2024. EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or live services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxIRL Copyright: xAdamxDavyx 74979369

    One of the US’ most prolific scorers this season came from Josh Sargent in the English Championship.  Missing 22 matches due to an ankle injury did not stop him from scoring double-digit goals, but it did stop him from winning the league’s golden boot.  Sargent finished 6th in goals scored with 16 in 26 league matches played with 2 assists.  If Sargent had not sustained the injury, he would have been in the argument for the league’s golden boot.  Across all competitions, Sargent started in 25 matches out of 28 matches played.  When you compare his traits to other strikers in the English Championship, Sargent finished ahead of 65% strikers in chances created, 83% shot attempts, and 96% goals.  In league play, Sargent had an 81.8% passing, 23 chances created, 47.5% dribbles completed, 45.4% duels won, and 39 recoveries.  Even with the injury, there have been rumors that Premier League clubs are monitoring him.  Maybe we will see him back in the EPL next season.  The reason he falls just short of the top 5 is because between the months of May and April, he had only 2 goals and 1 assist.  As a striker, you cannot have only 3 G/A in 2 months.  The injury also allowed others, mainly Haji Wright, to pass him in the top 10 Americans in Europe this season.  If he was not out for 4 months and was in contention for Championship Golden Boot, he would have been a top 5 American.

      Johnny Cardoso

      Johnny would be much higher on this list if he had played a full season in Europe based on his form with Los Verdiblancos since joining in January when you compare him to the other Americans in a top 5 league.  Johnny took LaLiga by storm and quickly took a starting role in just his second match, which happened to be against Barcelona.  He also received how praises from Manuel Pellegrini just after his first week with the club.  Johnny was awarded the LaLiga EA Sports U23 Player of the Month in February, his first full month for Real Betis.  Johnny’s quick adoption to LaLiga and excellent performances has already caused inquiries from major clubs, one of those clubs being Barcelona, and being a LaLiga U23 Player of the Season nominee.  Across all competitions, Johnny had 3 goal contributions, 72% long ball accuracy, 9 chances created, 78.9% successful dribbles, 34 tackles won for 65.9%, 51.2% of duels won, 35 interceptions, 101 recoveries between LaLiga and Europa Conference League.  In just half of a season, Johnny beat 96% of midfielders in LaLiga for defensive actions and 92% of them in aerial duels.  For playing only half a season in a top 5 league, these are very impressive numbers, and it made him one of the most exciting Americans to watch in Europe this season.  His nomination for LaLiga U23 Player of the Season, winning a U23 Player of the Month, and the quality of the teams he faced compared to other Americans in Europe is very difficult to ignore when placing him on this list.  Johnny only playing half the season in Europe does keep him from being higher up in the top.  If he can continue this form next season, he will for sure be a top 5 American in Europe.  Next season, Real Betis will be taking part in the Europa Conference League once again.

        Malik Tillman

        The American player who had one of the best loan spells this season was Malik Tillman.  After his successful loan at Glasgow Rangers last season, Malik Tillman proved that he could conquer a top 7 league after putting up 19 goal contributions for PSV in the Eredivisie.  His effort on the offense helped PSV win the league title.  Amongst all attacking midfielders and wingers in the Eredivisie, Malik finished ahead of 94% of the players in touches and 92% in chances created.  Also, he beat out 90% of them in defensive actions and 71% in goals.  Malik started in 24 matches out of 39 across all competitions with a total of 21 goal contributions (his one match with Jong PSV is not included).  Tillman also had 71% shots on target in league play; 81.6% passing accuracy, 67.8% long ball accuracy, 61 chances created, 47 successful dribbles for 47.8%, 3 penalties won, 36 tackles for 81.2%, 48.2% duels won, 25 interceptions, 9 blocks, 171 recoveries, and 39 possessions won in the final third.  On May 10th, PSV made the announcement at the end of the season that they had acquired Tillman permanently through 2028 and Bayern retained their buy-back clause.  PSV were not the only club that was pleased by his performance this season.  His parent club, Bayern, was reportedly to be very happy with his season as well.  Maybe we will see Tillman back in a Bayern shirt in the future.  Tillman not being higher on this list was due to his inconsistent performances in the Champions League and early in the Eredivisie season.

          Segiño Dest

          The player with arguably the best loan spell of the Americans in Europe was Sergiño Dest.  After appearing in only 14 matches for Milan AC last season and his second season with Barcelona under Xavi Hernández.  A step back to the Eredivisie was the right move for Dest to rejuvenate his career.  Due to Jordan Teze being PSV’s RB, Dest played LB this season and was successful at it, showing he can play on both sides.  In the Eredivisie, Dest made it on the Team of the Month on multiple occasions.  There are still improvements that need to be made in his defensive game, and that was evident in the UCL matches.  In the Eredivisie, Dest finished ahead of 90% of other fullbacks in chances created, 88% in touches, and 90% in shot attempts.  Across all competitions, Dest finished with 9 goal contributions, 86.9% passing accuracy, 69.1% long ball accuracy, 52 chances created, 62.4% dribbles completed, 58.5% ground duels won, and 163 recoveries.  Dest played a critical role in PSV winning the Eredivisie this season.  He did make some mistakes in the UCL matches, but he was still one of PSV’s better players in the competition.  Even though the Eredivisie is not a top 5 league in Europe, Dest was one of our top performers and most informed American players in Europe.

            Haji Wright

            Arguably one of the top 3 Americans in England this season, it did not start well for Haji Wright in his record transfer to Coventry City.  In his first 3 months at the club, Haji only had 2 goals and 2 assists.  Things did not start to turn around for him until November when he scored 3 goals in 4 matches.  By the end of the 1st half of the season, Haji had 12 goal contributions.  What changed for him?  Manager Mark Robins moved Haji to LW and occasionally as a left striker.  That move in position helped provide Haji Wright his best season of his career and one of the best American players this season.  His most iconic goal in my opinion this season was scoring the winning goal at the last minute against Wolves to help get Coventry City into the FA Cup Semi-Final followed by his goal against Manchester United.  By the end of the season, Haji had 25 goal contributions across all competitions, tying him with Christian Pulisic for most goal contributions by an American in a top 10 European league.  In league play, Haji and Sargent tied for 6th in goals with 16.  Haji was better than 93% attacking midfielders and wingers in aerial duels won, along with 97% in goals, and 98% in shot attempts.  Haji finished the season with 75.9% in passing, 32 chances created, 4 penalty goals, 36 completed dribbles, 49 fouls won, 63.9% tackles, 47.8% aerial duels won, and 114 recoveries.  If Haji Wright can recreate this season again next year in the English Championship, I will have no doubt he will be linked to a move to the Premier League.

              Weston McKennie

              Another player who was consistent for his European club this season was Weston McKennie for Juventus in the Serie A.  McKennie was one of the most informed players for Juventus this season and their leading player in assists with 7.  There has been discussion by Serie A media since January that McKennie deserves to be on the Serie A Team of the Season.  He spent a good amount of the season at RWB and was very successful.  He did not move to his natural position (central midfielder) until later in the season due to injuries.  Even with being one of Juve’s best players this season and being in discussion for Serie A Team of the Season, Juve refused to give the salary raise that McKennie asked for, leaving his future with the Italian giants in doubt.  McKennie started in 33 matches out of 38 matches.  He finished the season with 10 assists. 77.4% passing accuracy and 64.4% long ball accuracy across all competitions.  He also created 46 chances, 60.8% completed dribbles, 31 completed tackles for 80.2%, 168 duels won for 42.3%, 20 interceptions, and 128 recoveries.  When you compared McKennie to other Serie A midfielders, he outperformed 87% of them in chances created and 65% for aerial duels won.  After how things went last season for him, he had one of the biggest improvements in performance for an American along with Christian Pulisic.  The reason he finishes behind Pulisic is because he did not score a single goal and he was beginning to struggle in form towards the end of the season.  He was one of the few Americans to win a trophy this season by winning the Coppa Italia.

                Christian Pulisic

                It is a close call between Pulisic and Weston McKinnie for the 2nd best American this season and even 1st between Pulisic and Antonee Robinson.  I must give it to Pulisic because of his offensive work rate and productivity, and his European competition performance this season.  Pulisic finished the season with 15 goals and 10 assists across all competitions (1 goal being in the Champions League (UCL), and 2 goals and an assist being in the UEL) bringing a total of 25 G/A, the most he has had in a single season.    In Serie A, Pulisic tied for 4th of all players in the league for goals and assists.  For Milan, he was their 2nd highest goal scorer and had the 2nd most assists.  Pulisic started in 44 matches out of 55 matches played across all competitions.  Pulisic was nominated by the league for best midfielder of the season.  When compared to attacking midfielders and wingers in Serie A, he scored more goals than 91% of other players in those positions.  He also had an 83% passing accuracy, 60 chances created, 28.5% crossing accuracy (in the league, Pulisic was in the 72.7% ranking), 66 successful dribbles for 49%, 181 touches in opposition box, 71.3% tackles won, 198 ground duels won for 46.3%, 24 blocks, 11 interceptions, and 138 recoveries.  Since becoming a professional athlete, this was Christian Pulisic’s best season of his career.  People would argue he only performed as well as he did because he took a step down.  Even with Serie A not being at the level that the EPL is at, it is still a top 5 league in the world and Milan is one of the biggest clubs in Europe.  The reason why he is not the #1 American for this season is because Pulisic was not being consistent, especially against major opponents.

                Antonee Robinson

                  It was a tight decision between Antonee Robinson and Christian Pulisic for best American player in Europe this season, but I must hand it to Antonee.  Antonee Robinson was arguably the best LB in the English Premier League this season and even argued to be the best fullback this season.  This is very challenging when talking about the best league and the world where you have the likes of Kyle Walker, Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Andrew Robertson.  For the USMNT, he was perhaps the most consistent American in Europe this season.  Antonee started a total of 42 out of 44 matches.  He had a total of 6 assists this season, making him one of the top EPL defenders in assists this season.  He also finished with the most interceptions in the EPL with 80, 15 more than Lewis Cook, who had the 2nd most in the league.  This does not just include the EPL, but Jedi also had the most interceptions across Europe’s top 7 leagues.  In the top 7 European leagues, he came in 3rd in possession won in defensive 3rd with 145.  When comparing him to other fullbacks in the EPL, he outperformed 95% of the league’s fullbacks in defensive actions, 80% in touches, and 68% in aerial duels won.  Across all competitions, Antonee had 35 chances created, passing accuracy of 76.5%, 23% crossing accuracy, 49 successful dribbles for 60.3%, tackles won, 56.5% duels won, and 264 recoveries.  Antonee has made it on several reviewers’ EPL Team of the Season and is being monitored by top clubs for this summer by the likes of Liverpool and Bayern.  Compared to other Americans in Europe this season, Jedi made it on more continental stats leaderboards and competing in this best league in the world making him the best American in Europe this season.

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                  USMNT

                  Medals on their Minds

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                  May 23, 2024

                  Every amateur athlete has the goal to compete at an Olympics and for 18 U-23 USMNT players, they will get that chance this summer in France.  It’s been 16 years since the men’s soccer team qualified to play in the Olympics when they failed to get out of the Group Stage in China.

                  Since 1992 when age rules changed to a U-23 roster the USMNT has only played in four of the eight Olympics, with only one successful tournament in Australia in 2000 when they finished fourth and chance to win their first medal since 1904.

                  Rosters & Player Selection

                  The Olympics isn’t a FIFA tournament so clubs aren’t required to release players for this tournament, which has impacted the quality that the U-23 USMNT has been able to use in past tournaments, which personally I think is a miss for FIFA not to promote this and the players who play in it more.

                  The Olympic squads allow for 22 players, seven of which are available as match substitutes with the remaining four available as alternates. All squads are required to have three goalkeepers and at least 15 of the 18 players must be born on or after January 1, 2001, which allows for a maximum of three overage players

                  Each team is required to send at least a 35-player provisional roster no later than 30 days before the first match, however, this list is non-binding and can still be added before their first Olympic match.

                  Player Pool

                  The U-23 USMNT will be coached by Marko Mitrović who was hired as manager in September of 2023 and will be tasked with helping put together a squad that will compete for a medal at the 2024 Summer Olympics in France.

                  Since the fall of 2023, the U-23 USMNT has had three camps. Below are the players who have been part of at least one of those camps which likely comprises the core group of players who will be part of the U-23 USMNT roster.

                  John Dorton/USSF/Getty Images for USSF

                  Goalkeepers (5)
                  Chris Brady-Chicago Fire (MLS)*
                  John Pulskamp-Sporting Kansas City (MLS)
                  Chituru Odunze- Charlotte FC (MLS)
                  Patrick Schulte-Columbus Crew (MLS)*
                  Gabriel Slonina-Eupen (Belgium)*

                  Defenders (8)
                  George Campbell- CF Montréal (MLS)
                  Brandan Craig- Philadelphia Union (MLS)
                  Maximilian Dietz- Greuther Fürth (Germany)
                  Nathan Harriel-Philadelphia Union (MLS)
                  Bryan Reynolds- Westerlo (Belgium)*
                  John Tolkin-New York Red Bulls (MLS)*
                  Jonathan Tomkinson- Bradford City (England)
                  Caleb Wiley- Atlanta United FC (MLS)*

                  Players of note who are eligible who haven’t been called in recently
                  Justin Che, Mauricio Cuevas, Jonathan Gomez, Jalen Neal, Josh Wynder

                  Midfielders (10)
                  Paxten Aaronson-Vitesse (Netherlands)*
                  Josh Atencio- Seattle Sounders FC (MLS)
                  Cole Bassett-Colorado Rapids (MLS)
                  Gianluca Busio-Venezia (Italy)*
                  Benjamin Cremaschi- Inter Miami CF (MLS)
                  Daniel Edelman-New York Red Bulls (MLS)
                  Jack McGlynn-Philadelphia Union (MLS)*
                  Aidan Morris-Columbus Crew (MLS)*
                  Tanner Tessmann-Venezia (Italy)*
                  Obed Vargas-Seattle Sounders FC (MLS)

                  Players of note who are eligible who haven’t been called in recently
                  Noel Buck, Rokas Pukštas

                  Forwards (12)
                  Agustin Anello-Sparta Rotterdam (Netherlands)
                  Esmir Bajraktarevic-New England Revolution (MLS)*
                  Taylor Booth-Utrecht (Netherlands)*
                  Cade Cowell-Guadalajara (Mexico)
                  Johan Gomez-Eintracht Braunschweig (Germany)
                  Brian Gutiérrez-Chicago Fire (MLS)*
                  Bernard Kamungo-FC Dallas (MLS)
                  Diego Luna-Real Salt Lake (MLS)
                  Duncan McGuire-Orlando City SC (MLS)
                  Kevin Paredes-VfL Wolfsburg (Germany)*
                  Indiana Vassilev-St. Louis City SC (MLS)
                  Griffin Yow-Westerlo (Belgium)*

                  Players of note who are eligible who haven’t been called in recently
                  Ricardo Pepi

                  The Men’s Olympic roster can also consist of up to three overage players. In a recent interview, Gregg Berhalter named three possible players Auston Trusty, Brandon Vazquez, and Walker Zimmerman as options, all of which fall into areas of need for the U-23 USMNT. I also believe other options for overage players could be Kellyn Acosta and Jordan Pefok.

                  Past Olympics Results

                  1992 Summer Olympics – Spain

                  Alexi Lalas X Account

                  Played in Group A with Poland, Italy, and Kuwait
                  Finished 3rd in their group and 9th overall with 1 Win, 1 Draw, and 1 Loss, GF-6, GA-5
                  Steve Snow led the team with 2 goals
                  Manager- Lothar Osiander

                  The U-23 USMNT played quite well in the Group Stage and if it hadn’t been for their hard-fought 2-1 loss to Italy they would have advanced out of the group.

                  Featured USMNT Players

                  Brad Friedel
                  Alexi Lalas
                  Mike Burns
                  Claudio Reyna
                  Joe-Max Moore
                  Cobi Jones
                  Chris Henderson

                  1996 Summer Olympics – United States (Host)

                  Miles Joseph #11, Midfielder and Defender for the United States and #2 Kenedy of Portugal challenge for the football during their Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Group A match at the XXVI Summer Olympic Games on 24th July 1996 at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C., United States. The match was drawn 1 – 1. (Photo by Martin Venegas/Allsport/Getty Images)

                  Getty Images

                  Played in Group A with Argentina, Portugal, and Tunisia
                  Finished 3rd in their group and 10th overall with 1 Win, 1 Draw, and 1 Loss, GF-4, GA-4
                  Brian Maisonneuve led the team with 2 goals
                  Manager- Bruce Arena

                  As hosts, the U-23 USMNT played well during the group stage, but not well enough to advance to the knockout stage. Argentina who was one of the teams in the group with the US would make it to the gold medal match but ended up losing 3-2 to Nigeria.

                  Featured USMNT Players

                  Kasey Keller*
                  Eddie Pope
                  Alexi Lalas*
                  Jovan Kirovski
                  Claudio Reyna
                  Frankie Hejduk

                  *Overage player 

                  2000 Summer Olympics – Australia

                  Getty Images

                  Played in Group C with Cameroon, Kuwait, Czech Republic
                  Finished 1st in their group and 4th  overall with 1 Win, 3 Draws, and 2 Losses, GF-9, GA-11
                  Peter Vagenas led the team with 3 goals
                  Manager- Clive Charles

                  The 2000 Olympics for the U-23 USMNT has been their greatest success to date. The US would play for the bronze medal against Chile a match they would end up losing 2-0. There would be five players from this roster who would be part of the 2002 FIFA World Cup team that advanced to the quarter-finals losing to eventual runners-up Germany 1-0.

                  Featured USMNT Players

                  Brad Friedel*
                  Jeff Agoos*
                  John O’Brien
                  Frankie Hejduk*
                  Ben Olsen
                  Chris Albright
                  Landon Donovan
                  Josh Wolff
                  Tim Howard

                  *Overage player 

                  2004 Summer Olympics – Greece – DNQ

                  The U-23 USMNT finished 4th in the Concacaf Pre-Olympic Tournament with the top two teams advancing to the Olympics. The team was managed by Glenn Myernick.

                  2008 Summer Olympics – China

                  Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo

                  Played in Group B with Nigeria, Netherlands, Japan
                  Finished 3rd in their group and 9th  overall with 1 Win, 1 Draw, and 1 Loss, GF-4, GA-4
                  Sacha Kljestan led the team with 2 goals
                  Manager- Piotr Nowak

                  The U-23 USMNT played in a very good group and needed a win or a draw help to advance to the knockout stage, which they weren’t able to accomplish. Eight players on this Olympic squad were on the roster for the 2009 Confederation Cup team that ended Spain’s 35-match unbeaten streak and finished 2nd after losing to Brazil in the Final 3-2.

                  Featured USMNT Players

                  Freddy Adu
                  Jozy Altidore
                  Michael Bradley
                  Charlie Davies
                  Maurice Edu
                  Benny Feilhaber
                  Brad Guzan*
                  Stuart Holden
                  Sacha Kljestan
                  Brian McBride*
                  Michael Orozco
                  Michael Parkhurst*
                  Marvell Wynne

                  *Overage player 

                  2012 Summer Olympics – Great Britain – DNQ

                  The U-23 USMNT finished 5th in the Concacaf Pre-Olympic Tournament with the top two teams advancing to the Olympics. The team was managed by Caleb Porter.

                  2016 Summer Olympics – Brazil– DNQ

                  The U-23 USMNT finished 3rd in the Concacaf Pre-Olympic Tournament with the top two teams advancing to the Olympics. The team was managed by Andi Herzog.

                  2020 Summer Olympics – Japan– DNQ

                  The U-23 USMNT finished 3rd in the Concacaf Pre-Olympic Tournament with the top two teams advancing to the Olympics. The team was managed by Jason Kreis.

                  Expectations and Predictions

                  The group of U-23 USMNT has an opportunity to make a deep run at the 2024 Olympics in France with many possible players looking to get club transfers and work their way into the national team after this summer.

                  With the many failures of the USSF when it comes to qualifying and putting in a plan of success as it relates to the U-23 team, I think they have done quite well in building a quality player pool that should allow them a chance for a medal this summer.

                  As mentioned earlier clubs are not required to release players for the Olympics and my expectations and predictions are based on the 40 or so players mentioned above who have been part of recent camps along with the overaged players likely to be considered. 

                  While the U-23 USMNT is in a group with the host France they should still be able to get out of the group by beating Guinea and New Zealand, which is the minimum we should expect from this group, but will likely need at least five points to guarantee them a spot in the knockout stage. Ideally, they would be able to find their way to the semi-final and give themselves a chance to win a bronze medal, but that might be asking too much.

                  My hope is that the USMNT will be able to pull in a handful of young talented players from this pool into the national team squad to help provide needed depth while helping phase out some of the aging veterans.

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                  USMNT

                  Is the MLS Specifically Targeting Expansion to USL Cities?

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                  In 2019, Don Garber and MLS announced they would expand to 30 teams.  A year later, Don Garber said the cities of Las Vegas, Indianapolis, San Diego, Detroit, and Phoenix were clubs interested in joining MLS.  Four of those cities had a USL or NISA club at the time of the announcement.  Today, one of those USL teams has ceased to exist, another may be in jeopardy now, and the NISA club is now a USL club.

                  On April 25th, 2024, the Mayor of Indianapolis, Joe Hogsett, announced an unnamed ownership group would put in a bid for an MLS club.  Along with the announcement, the owners of Indy XI (the USL Championship team in Indianapolis), Keystone Group, announced the City had backed out of the $1 billion fund for Eleven Park.  The stadium was announced in 2022 and was planned to be a 20,000-seat stadium.  It would also include additional apartments, office buildings, and other amenities.  Last year, the stadium broke ground.  That means that the mayor and city council agreed to stop the funding of a sports facility in mid-construction that would also add additional jobs to the people of Indianapolis and stop their backing of an existing club for a potential club.  If the city does not get the bid, it could have repercussions for elected officials.  When you look at social media, the people of Indianapolis are not happy about the announcement.

                  https://twitter.com/ManagerTactical/status/1783628831695184283

                  This is not the first time a team in the USL was in danger by the expansion by the MLS.  San Diego Loyal played their final season in 2023 after the announcement by the MLS that they would expand to San Diego with the club San Diego FC.  SD Loyal made the announcement just three months after San Diego FC was announced.  The reason was due to not being able to find a stadium solution.  As for San Diego FC, they will play their matches at the Snapdragon Stadium, which the Loyal could have used to play their matches.  Instead of looking for a solution to integrate San Deigo Loyal, MLS had their club created which led to the destruction of a club in a rival league.

                  Miami had a soccer club before Inter Miami, Miami FC.  Miami is a different story than San Diego.  Unlike the Loyal, Miami FC attracts a very small audience.  They averaged only 190 people a game a year before the arrival of Inter Miami, per Transfermarkt.  It has gone up since Inter Miami’s inaugural season.  Last season, the average attendance was 1,432 and this season it is 826 so far.  The problem falls on the people of Miami though.  Inter Miami increased their attendance by 35% to 17,061 last year from the prior season.  It still begs the question of how much longer Miami FC will last when they are competing against a club with Leonel Messi for attendance.

                  Las Vegas Lights is another USL Championship club but are in a city being looked at by MLS also for expansion.  Even worse, the current owner, José Bautista, is not part of the organization and is in talks with Don Garber to join the MLS, who would be the owners of Aston Villa.  Phoenix is a different story.  The USL team, Phoenix Rising, talked to MLS to join the league, which is a more positive solution.  Tampa Bay Rowdies did the same thing when they were pursuing an MLS bid.

                  MLS does speak to the current existing clubs in the city.  They did it with Louisville City, San Diego Loyal, Sacramento Republic, and others, but when that failed, they move in with their own clubs, i.e., San Diego FC and now potentially Indy MLS club.  What MLS is doing is not helping the growth of the sport.  They are aiming to monopolize the sport by destroying their competition, USL.  This would not be a problem if USSF would create an open system or step in to put it to a stop.  If MLS is the sole soccer league in the US with only 30-40 cities with a team, then you would isolate the hundreds of cities that have fans and players without a club to help accomplish their dream.  Even in other sports leagues in the US we do not see a campaign like this.  NFL did not actively work to end the XFL and the other football leagues.  The NHL and the MLB have minor leagues all over the country.  I do not prefer having minor leagues in soccer here in the US.  It would be preferable that the MLS and USL work together to expand the sport and/or USSF implement policies that protect smaller leagues from bigger leagues.

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