Overview

The U-20 USYNT are preparing for a massive summer where they will play in a Concacaf competition to qualify for the 2023 U20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics which will take place from June 18 – July 3, 2022, in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Per Concacaf: 

The competition will kick off the third week of June with a Group Stage between the top ranked 16 teams (according to the Concacaf Men’s U-20 Ranking). After Group Stage play (June 18-23) the top three teams in each of the groups will advance to the Round of 16, joining the four CMU20C Qualifiers winners (qualifiers between the lowest ranked nations took place in November 2021, results are available here).

The 16 team Knockout Stage will begin with the Round of 16 (June 25-26), followed by the Quarterfinals (June 29), Semifinals (July 1), and Final (July 3). Further details on the scheduling will be announced after the draw. 

All Knockout Stage matches will be played in a single match elimination format, with the semifinalist (four teams) qualifying to the FIFA Men’s U-20 World Cup Indonesia 2023 and the finalists (two teams) to the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games. 

The draw for the Group Stage of the 2022 CMU20C will take place March 3 (11:00 am ET), at the Concacaf headquarters in Miami, FL. Fans will be able to follow the event via the Confederation’s Official App, Website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel.

For the draw, the top four ranked teams, USA, Mexico, Panama, and Honduras have been seeded into Groups E, F, G, and H respectively. The remaining 12 nations will be split into 3 pots according to their ranking as follows (listed in ranking order per pot and the highest ranked teams in Pot 1):

Pot 1: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Cuba, and Haiti

Pot 2: Canada, Trinidad & Tobago, Guatemala, and Jamaica

Pot 3: Antigua & Barbuda, Suriname, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Aruba

Teams will be drawn and placed into Groups E, F, G, and H in sequential order, with no more than one team of each Pot per group. 

Group E: United States, E2, E3, and E4

Group F: Mexico, F2, F3, and F4

Group G: Panama, G2, G3, and G4 

Group H: Honduras, H2, H3, and H4

This team is and will be made up of players born in the year 2003 or later. What is slightly confusing about this dual qualification, is that the 2024 Olympic team will ultimately be open to players born in 2001 or later, yet it’s the 2003s that are qualifying for it. 

The team will be led by Mikey Varas who was appointed on November 5th, 2021 right before the Revelations Cup, a set of three matches against Brazil, Mexico and Colombia. Mikey was most recently an assistant at FC Dallas under now USMNT assistant Luchi Gonzalez. FC Dallas is one of the most prolific academies in the US and has been the biggest source of talent for the USMNT and European clubs. 

Upcoming Camps

According to USSF, the next camp will be held from March 21 – March 30, during the same International Window that the USMNT will be playing their last WCQ matches. It’s rumored that the U20s will play in a set of friendlies down in Argentina against some very competitive teams.

The USSF has also communicated that there will be a camp from April 22 – May 1, likely the last time this group will get together before the summer. Mikey Varas will have two more camps to bring in different players and settle on a final evaluation ahead of the Honduras tournament.

Player Pool Overview

This team will be predominantly populated by players in the 2003 and 2004 class, though there have been a few 2005s that have participated in recent camps. The 2003 class is widely considered to be one of the strongest that the US has ever produced, with both high end talent and depth. The 2004 group is less acclaimed. They were more heavily impacted by the lack of games during the pandemic and the 2004s have been less prolific in receiving first team deals domestically. There are some very intriguing 2004 prospects that are currently playing within European academies. The challenge with European based players is that youth camps are not camps that clubs are required to release players for, so it can be more difficult to get those players into camps, however the competitive matches this summer are occurring during the European off-season. 

Within this article I will detail who has been called into the last two camps, who I think should be in the mix for the summer tournament, and  who I would like to see in the March camp, assuming a 26-person squad.

From what we have seen from Mikey Varas, it looks like he will prioritize a similar 4-3-3 formation as the USMNT. Continuity throughout the US system will allow players to integrate and impact more quickly as they move through the ranks. The positions of strength for this age group includes: goalkeepers, left-backs, central-mids (8s) and wingers. The weaknesses of this group include center-backs, defensive-mids (6s) and strikers (9s). 

Positional Breakdown

Gaga Slonina
Goalkeepers

This is a really loaded group. The 2004s have the potential to be the greatest class of goalkeepers across the board in US history. There is that much talent. It’s early, so anything can happen. Gaga Slonina is the headliner, but there are many very good analysts that believe Jeff Dewsnup and Chris Brady are just as talented, if not more talented. What a luxury! Unfortunately, only one can play at a time and given Gaga’s recent rise and the fact he’ll be starting week in and week out for Chicago, he’s the likely starter. 

The backup spot is completely up for grabs. Neither Dewsnup and Brady have been called into a recent camp, but I think that’s more because of the clubs than US preference. I suspect Dewsnup will be the eventual #2 so that if Gaga has to miss time with Chicago, Brady is there to play in his absence. We shouldn’t count out Alex Borto or Antonio Carrera either. Borto impressed in the November camp and Carrera’s recent camp performance boosted his stock in Feb, with two clean sheets in scrimmages against MLS clubs. Carrera recently signed his homegrown deal with FC Dallas. 

Who has been called into last two camps: Gaga Slonina (Nov ‘21), Alex Borto (Nov ‘21), Antonio Carrera (Feb ‘22), KyMani Dada (Feb ‘22), Anthony Ramos (Feb ‘22)

My March call-ups: Jeff Dewsnup, Real Salt Lake City (2004), Chris Brady, Chicago Fire (2004), Antonio Carrera, FC Dallas (2004)

In my pool for the summer tournament: Gaga Slonina, Chicago Fire (2004), Alex Borto, Fulhum U18 (2003), Jeff Dewsnup, Real Salt Lake City (2004), Chris Brady, Chicago Fire (2004), Antonio Carrera, FC Dallas (2004)

Jonathan Gomez
Left-Backs

Left-backs are another position of strength, something US soccer fans haven’t heard, maybe ever. For my March call-ups I am assuming that Jonathan Gomez will be able to leave Real Sociedad and he will prioritize the American side over the Mexican side, but there is a high probability that JoGo will stay in Spain for this camp. In a recent interview, it sounded like JoGo was planning to prioritize the American U20 camp over Mexico when the next opportunity arises. If true, he is the overwhelming favorite to start, which will allow Kevin Paredes to play higher up the pitch on the wing. 

The backup position is more competitive. My favorite to win the position is Caleb Wiley from Atlanta. He has been in the last two camps and recently signed his homegrown deal with Atlanta where he’ll be the primary backup to Andrew Gutman and the future of that position. Noah Allen has also come on strong for Inter Miami and he is likely pushing Caleb for that spot. I am a fan of both of their games and would like to see them both in camp to continue to compete for the LB2 spot. 

Who has been called into last two camps: Caleb Wiley (Nov ‘21, Feb ‘22), Jacob Greene (Nov ‘21), Noah Allen (Feb ‘22)

My March call-ups: Jonathan Gomez, Real Sociedad B (2003), Caleb Wiley, Atlanta United (2004), Noah Allen, Inter Miami II (2004)

In my pool for the summer tournament: Jacob Greene, DC United (2003), Anton Sorenson, Philadelphia Union (2003), Tristan Viviani, San Jose Earthquakes (2004)

Alex Freeman
Right-Backs

The right-back and center-back depth chart will be impacted by where Mikey Varas wants to play Justin Che. He is probably this group’s best right-back and center-back so it will come down to what role will deliver the most positive impact to the team. I am electing to start him at right-back where is stronger right now and it is also where he is playing for Hoffenheim. Justin gives Mikey flexibility in how he wants to construct the squad and how they can play. 

At the moment, my preferred backup is Mauricio Cuevas. He has been this age group’s primary RB for a while, but has been without a club until recently signing with Club Brugge’s reserve team. Still, he is one of the most talented players on this team and was called into the last camp. We’ll see if he gets called back in March. I’d love to see some in-game action and find out how rusty he is. 

There are options behind Cuevas if he needs more time to regain form. My sleeper pick here is Alex Freeman, a very toolsy and athletic player that has come on strong over the last year or two. He was recently signed to a homegrown deal and he will likely end up being one of the top 04s. 

For March, I want to learn more about the depth of this group, so I’d love to get a first look at Alex Freeman and Devan Tanton to have a full suite of information on this right-back position. 

Who has been called into last two camps: Justin Che (Nov ‘21), Kayden Pierre (Nov ‘21), Mauricio Cuevas (Feb ‘22), Michael Halliday (Feb ‘22)

My March call-ups: Alex Freeman, Orlando City (2004), Devan Tanton, Fulham U18 (2004)

In my pool for the summer tournament: Justin Che, Hoffenheim (2003), Mauricio Cuevas, Club NXT (2003), Michael Halliday, Orlando City (2003), Alex Freeman, Orlando City (2004), Devan Tanton, Fulham U18 (2004), Kayden Pierre, Sporting KC (2003)

Kobi Henry
Center-Backs

This group was one of the glaring weaknesses of that Revelations Cup back in November, granted the team had almost no preparation time beforehand. In February, the group appeared to have improved based on the fact that they had two clean sheets in friendlies against MLS clubs.

The big question here is if Tony Leone is still open to the US project or if he’s fully committed to El Tri. I’ve heard that he is still open, but he’s only joined Mexico camps as of late. This might be the last camp before qualification, so maybe we can convince him to give it a shot? If not, remember that Justin Che can play here and Markus Ferkranus, Thomas Williams and Nigel Prince are also viable options. 

Kobi Henry is a big and athletic prospect that seems to be very well thought of within the US ranks and a player who really caught my eye at the Revelations Cup. He was one of the U20s invited to the Senior December camp. He also recently went on a trial in France with Ligue 1 side, Reims, and it’s rumored that he will transfer there once he turns 18 in April. 

Jalen Neal is a prospect I am not as high on as some others I respect. I need to see more of him, but it seems like he will be one of the preferred options. The last CB I have in my group is the very skillful Brandan Craig. Brandan is the best passer of this group and has added some much needed strength. We’ll see if he breaks through with the Union this year. He can also play defensive midfield which gives Mikey more flexibility. Brandan might end up being the best defensive midfield option this group has. 

Thomas Williams, Marcus Ferkranus and Nigel Prince all fit the mold of big, strong and athletic center-backs that can dominate in the air, but are still developing the more technical sides of their game. They are all high upside players that have shown a lot of growth in the last couple of years. 

A few other names to keep an eye on are Alejandro Cano, who was recently called into an El Salvador U20 camp. Hugo is recruiting Salvadoran-Americans hard. Anrie Chase is a really interesting name. He currently plays in Japan but is rumored to be moving to Eintracht Frankfurt when he turns 18. He has only played for Japanese youth teams, but it would be great to get him involved in an upcoming camp. Casey Walls really struggled in the Revelations Cup, but he’s skillful and it’s too early to remove him from the pool completely. 

Who has been called into last two camps: Kobi Henry (Nov ‘21, Feb ‘22), Jalen Neal (Nov ‘21), Casey Walls (Nov ‘21), Marcus Ferkranus (Feb ‘22), Thomas Williams (Feb ‘22), Brandan Craig (Feb ‘22)

My March call-ups: Tony Leone, LAFC (2004), Kobi Henry, Orange County (2004), Jalen Neal, LA Galaxy (2003), Nigel Prince, Atlanta United (2004), Alejandro Cano, San Jose Earthquakes (2004)

In my pool for the summer tournament: Marcus Ferkranus, LA Galaxy (2003), Thomas Williams, Orlando City (2004), Nigel Prince, Atlanta United (2004), Anrie Chase, Eintracht Frankfurt in March (2004), Alejandro Cano, San Jose Earthquakes (2004), Casey Walls, San Jose Earthquakes (2003)

Moses Nyeman
Defensive Midfielders

The defensive midfield position is another where there isn’t a clear starter. There are a few different options that have strengths and glaring weaknesses. From my perspective there are three routes Mikey can go: 

Route 1, play the best three midfielders possible, in which case, I would argue that playing Moses Nyeman as a defensive midfielder would be the best option. He’s not a true 6, but he is talented enough to do the job and be more effective than the other true 6 options. 

Option 2 is a more technical, ball-controlling 6 like Danny Leyva or Brandan Craig. Danny would improve offensive build-up and switching play, but he’s a big defensive liability. 

Option 3 is prioritizing defense and the ability to mitigate danger, in which case Daniel Edelman is the best option. The reality is that all three of these players will likely be on the qualification roster and Mikey will use them all based on the opponent. 

For the March camp, I would call in Moses Nyeman who hasn’t yet been in a U20 camp due to injuries and MLS preseason, but he’s sure to be a core member of this team. I would also call back Danny Leyva, if healthy, and I would love to get a look at Atlanta United DM/CB, Efrain Morales, who has a similar skill set as Brandan Craig. 

Who has been called into last two camps: Daniel Edelman (Nov ‘21, Feb ‘22), Danny Leyva (Nov ‘21), Jeremy Garay (Nov ‘21), Jayvin Van Deventer, KC Academy (Feb ‘22)

My March call-ups: 

Moses Nyeman, DC United (2003), Danny Leyva, Seattle Sounders (2003), Efraín Morales, Atlanta United (2004)

In my pool for the summer tournament: Moses Nyeman, DC United (2003), Daniel Edelman, NYRB (2003), Danny Leyva, Seattle Sounders (2003), Brandan Craig, Philadelphia Union (2004), Efraín Morales, Atlanta United (2004)

Paxten Aaronson
Central Midfielders

As we’ve learned from the USMNT, the dual 8s are a critical component of the US 4-3-3 system. Good news, we have some really strong options within this position group. As mentioned before, Moses Nyeman profiles better here, but I’m sticking him with a weaker 6 group, but he certainly will see time here. 

Paxten Aaronson and Quinn Sullivan are locks for this roster. Both are high level prospects who are on the path to having big international futures. Paxten is more of a 10, but I think he can comfortably play here or on the wing depending on what Mikey needs in a given game/situation. 

We’ve yet to see Alejandro Alvarado with the U20s and it’s unclear if Mikey rates him or if he hasn’t been available for release from Vizela. Alejandro is a former LA Galaxy academy product who has consistently been selected to the first team matchday squad with Portuguese side Vizela. Alejandro is a Mexican-American dual national who is highly technical and would add a really nice skill set to this midfield. 

Another player I would love to see in camp is Kevin Bright who recently transferred from AC Milan’s academy to Cremonese’s academy. He’s a big and athletic midfielder with some very interesting tools. I’d love to see him integrated into the project. 

Another player I would call in to camp in March is Zach Booth who recently signed his first professional contract with Leicester City in the Premier League. Zach, little brother of Taylor is just as talented and is playing well in England, recently coming off of a long injury. 

Obed Vargas is 2005 and a fast riser. He recently debuted for Seattle in the Concacaf Champions League and was very impressive. 

Jack McGlynn is another well known name, another Philadelphia Union player. I don’t love how his skill set fits how the US will want to play and how his skill set fits what we need from the 8s. Jack is a very technical player, but he’s a poor athlete that struggles to press, close down and track back defensively. 

Who has been called into last two camps: Paxten Aaronson (Nov ‘21, Feb ‘22), Quinn Sullivan (Nov ‘21, Feb ‘22), Jack McGlynn (Nov ‘21, Feb ‘22), Obed Vargas (Feb ‘22), Rokas Pukstas (Nov ‘21), Javier Casas (Feb ‘22)

My March call-ups: Paxten Aaronson, Philadelphia Union (2003), Quinn Sullivan, Philadelphia Union (2004), Alejandro Alvarado Jr, Vizela (2003), Zach Booth, Leicester City U18 (2004), Kevin Bright, Cremonese U19 (2003)

In my pool for the summer tournament: Paxten Aaronson, Philadelphia Union (2003), Quinn Sullivan, Philadelphia Union (2004), Jack McGlynn, Philadelphia Union (2003), Obed Vargas, Seattle (2005), Alejandro Alvarado Jr, Vizela (2003), Zach Booth, Leicester City U18 (2004), Kevin Bright, Cremonese U19 (2003), Rokas Pukstas, Split U19 (2004), Evan Rotundo, Schalke U19 (2004)

Caden Clark
Wingers

The winger group is another position of strength, though the top two players here aren’t necessarily true wingers. Kevin Paredes has played mostly as a wing-back, a position that isn’t used frequently within the US system. He can play as a LB, LW and RW and I project that with JoGo at LB, Mikey will move Kevin up the field to LW. Kevin is among the most talented players in this pool. He has yet to join this group because of injuries and his transfer to Wolfsburg, but I’d expect him there in March if Wolfsburg is cool with it and I definitely expect him with the team this summer. 

Caden Clark is another one of the top 5 talents in this group. He is a 10 who can play as an 8 or on the wing and he’ll probably play both of those positions for this team, similarly to Paxten Aaronson. Caden confirmed in an interview with Tactical Manager that he has been playing on the wing for the U20s, so that is why I have him here. 

A name that may not be familiar to everyone that I really want to see in the next camp is Luca Koleosho. He plays for Espanyol’s U19 and has spent some time training with their first team. He’s a very athletic and talented winger that is also being pursued by Canada. He was invited to both camps in February and was not able to join the US camp due to club conflicts and was set to join the Canadian camp before it was canceled. It seems that we will have a competition for Luca so we need to get him into camp as soon as we can. 

There are two very talented 2005s on my March squad. Bora Aydinlik is a Turkish-American who has yet to play in our setup, but he has been training with the Fenerbahce first team and was on the bench in their last Europa Conference League match. He’s clearly very well thought of and rising quickly. The other is Kristian Fletcher who is fast a rising prospect. He has trialed for Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund and is rumored to be heading to BVB, pending passport issues. He’s a very athletic winger who was in the last camp and played as a striker due to the lack of options there. 

I didn’t elect to bring Dante Sealy who has been in both camps and will likely make the summer team, but I’d like to use the time in March to experiment with players we haven’t seen yet. 

The depth at this position is really strong. Players like Gutierrez, Luna, Oliva and Bajraktarevic are all great options. Perez and Torres are on this list, but they seem committed to Mexico. 

Who has been called into last two camps: Caden Clark (Nov ‘21, Feb ‘22), Dante Sealy (Nov ‘21, Feb ‘22), Brian Gutiérrez (Nov ‘21, Feb ‘22), Diego Luna (Nov ‘21, Feb ‘22), Esmir Bajraktarevic (Feb ‘22)

My March call-ups: Kevin Paredes, Wolfsburg (2003), Caden Clark, NYRB (2003), Luca Koleosho, Espanyol U19 (2004), Bora Aydinlik, Fenerbahce U19, Kristian Fletcher, Bethesda SC (2005)

In my pool for the summer tournament: Kevin Paredes, Wolfsburg (2003), Caden Clark, NYRB (2003), Dante Sealy, Jong PSV (2003), Luca Koleosho, Espanyol U19 (2004), Kristian Fletcher, Bethesda SC (2005), Brian Gutiérrez, Chicago Fire (2003), Diego Luna, El Paso Locomotive (2003), Jonathan Perez, LA Galaxy (2003), Yaya Toure, Colorado Rapids (2004), Federico Oliva, Atletico Madrid U18 (2004), Christian Torres, LAFC (2004), Esmir Bajraktarevic, Revolution II (2005)

Cade Cowell
Strikers

Much like the senior team, the striker position is a bit of a quagmire. Ricardo Pepi would be the obvious choice, but he’ll likely be playing with the senior team. Could he be an option this summer? That would be very intriguing. 

For now, I am playing Cade Cowell here. It’s not his best position, but like Nyeman at the 6, he’s a lesser of evils. Cade could be a dynamic front man in the press and lethal as a vertical threat in the counterpress. He also has a nose for goals. 

Sanogo has been at the last two camps and he profiles more to how Cowell would play the 9 position. Neither are target strikers, they are both guys who are more effective playing in behind a backline. As mentioned before, Fletcher played there last camp, out of position. Bohui also played there last camp, out of position, he’s more of a winger. 

It would be really nice to find a target striker, which is why I would like to give Darren Yapi a try. A big and physical 9 from Colorado. 

Who has been called into last two camps: Cade Cowell (Nov ‘21),  Malick Sanogo (Nov ‘21, Feb ‘22), Patrick Bohui (Feb ‘22), Kristian Fletcher (Feb ‘22)

My March call-ups: Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes (2003), Darren Yapi, Colorado Rapids (2004)

In my pool for the summer tournament: Ricardo Pepi, Augsburg (2003), Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes (2003), Malick Sanogo, Union Berlin U19 (2004), Kristian Fletcher, Bethesda (2005), Patrick Bohui, Vejle Boldklub U19 (2003), Dzanan Mehicevic, Frankfurt U19 (2003), Tega Ikoba, Portland Timbers (2003), Darren Yapi, Colorado Rapids (2004), Javon Hendricks, Greuther Fürth U19 (2004)