Tournament 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. The team is managed by Mikey Varas. Players born on January 1, 2003 or later are eligible for the tournament. 

The Draw

Group E: USA, Cuba, Canada, St. Kitts and Nevis

Group F: Mexico, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname

Group G: Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Aruba

Group H: Honduras, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda

Group Stage Schedule

June 18th — St. Kitts and Nevis

June 20th — Canada

June 22nd — Cuba

After the round-robin group stage, the top three teams in each of the four groups will advance to the 16-team knockout stage from June 25 – July 3, joined by four group winners from a preliminary knockout round (Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico) that was played last November.

The tournament’s four semi finalists will advance to next year’s U-20 World Cup, while the two finalists will qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympics. The tournament allows for 20 person squads. 

Positional Breakdown

This iteration of U20 YNT initially convened in November 2021 for the Revelations Cup. Since then, there have been camps in February, March and April. Below I document who has been invited to each camp at each position and I make my predictions and my preferences for the final 20 person squad for the Concacaf U20 tournament in the middle of June. It’s important to note that squad selection is significantly impacted by whether each player’s club allows the player to go to this tournament. Concacaf did not schedule this tournament over an International Window, so the clubs are not obligated to release players. This will likely impact the US team more than any other team because they have players that have key roles on senior teams and they have players that are entering a critical preseason in Europe. For the purposes of this article, I am assuming everyone is available because I have no way to guess who will be released. 

Goalkeepers

Who has been called into recent camps: Chris Brady, Chicago Fire (3/22, 4/22), Antonio Carrera, FC Dallas (2/22, 4/22), Alex Borto, Fulham FC (11/21, 3/22), Xavier Valdez, Houston Dynamo (4/22), KyMani Dada, LAFC (2/22), Anthony Ramos, LA Galaxy (2/22), Gaga Slonina, Chicago Fire (11/21)

Potentially still in the mix: Jeff Dewsnup, Real Salt Lake City (2004) — Jeff is a top GK prospect and would most certainly be in the mix if he was healthy. He’s now missed every camp leading up to the tournament, so I don’t think it’s likely he’ll be called. It’s best that he gets back into form with the Real Monarchs in MLS Next Pro. 

Biggest snub so far: None, I think the right prospects that have been fit have been given an opportunity. 

My preferred selections: Gaga Slonina, Alex Borto

My predicted selections: Alex Borto, Chris Brady (It’s been reported that Chicago will not release Gaga for the U20 tournament). 

Next in line if there is an injury or club won’t release players: Jeff Dewsnup, Real Salt Lake City (2004)

Left-Backs

Who has been called into last two camps: 

Caleb Wiley, Atlanta United (11/21, 2/22, 3/22), Noah Allen, Inter Miami (2/22), Anton Sorenson, Philadelphia Union (4/22)

Potentially still in the mix: Jonathan Gomez, Real Sociedad B (2003) — JoGo has been called by both Mexico and USA, but hasn’t been released by Real Sociedad for the U20 level. He recently accepted a senior team callup to Mexico for a friendly against Guatemala on 4/27. It has been reported that JoGo might get called to the USMNT camp that occurs right before this tournament. If he does, it’s unlikely he would also join the U20s. There are a lot of question marks here. If Mikey can call JoGo, he surely will. 

Biggest snub so far: None, I think the best prospects have been given an opportunity

My preferred selections: Jonathan Gomez (2003), Caleb Wiley (2004)

My predicted selections: Caleb Wiley (2004), Noah Allen (2004)

Next in line if there is an injury or club won’t release players: Anton Sorenson, Philadelphia Union (2003)

Right-Backs

Who has been called into last two camps: Justin Che, Hoffenheim (11/21, 3/22), Mauricio Cuevas, Club Brugge (2/22, 3/22), Michael Halliday, Orlando City (2/22, 4/22), Jacob Greene, DC United (11/21), Kayden Pierre, Sporting KC (11/21, 4/22), Devan Tanton, Fulham FC (4/22)

Biggest snub so far: Alex Freeman, Orlando City (2004): I think he is a better prospect than Halliday, Pierre and Tanton, yet he was not called into the recent April “depth” camp. On a positive note, Alex was invited to the U19 camp. That does signal that he is currently rated lower than the others mentioned. Hopefully he balled out at the U19 camp and word spreads within the Confederation. 

My predicted selections: Justin Che (2003), Mauricio Cuevas (2003)

My preferred selections: Justin Che (2003), Mauricio Cuevas (2003)

Next in line if there is an injury or club won’t release players: Devan Tanton, Fulham FC (2004)

Center-Backs

Who has been called into last two camps: Kobi Henry, Orange County (11/21, 2/22, 3/22), Jalen Neal, LA Galaxy (11/21, 3/22), Casey Walls, San Jose Earthquakes (11/21), Marcus Ferkranus, LA Galaxy (2/22, 3/22), Thomas Williams, Orlando City (2/22, 4/22), Brandan Craig, Philadelphia Union (2/22, 3/22), Jaziel Orozco, Real Salt Lake (4/22), Quembol Guadalupe, Orlando City (4/22) 

Biggest snub so far: Anrie Chase, VfB Stuttgart (2004): Anrie is a Japanese-American who has represented Japan at the U23 level. I do not know if the USSF has been in contact, but knowing how strong they’ve been at identifying dual-national talent, I would assume they have. I have no idea if he has received an invite to one of these camps and either hasn’t been able to attend or has declined them, so using the word “snub” is harsh, but I would love to see him get a chance with this group.  

My preferred selections: Jalen Neal (2003), Brandan Craig (2004), Thomas Williams (2004)

My predicted selections: Jalen Neal (2003), Brandan Craig (2004), Thomas Williams (2004)

Next in line if there is an injury or club won’t release players: Kobi Henry, Orange County SC (2004)

Defensive Midfielders

Who has been called into last two camps: Daniel Edelman, NYRB (11/21, 2/22, 3/22), Obed Vargas, Seattle Sounders (2/22, 3/22) Danny Leyva, Seattle Sounders (11/21, 4/22), Jeremy Garay, DC United (11/21), Jayvin Van Deventer, Sporting KC (2/22), Tarun Karumanchi, UCLA (4/22)

Biggest snub so far: Efraín Morales, Atlanta United (2004): Efraín currently plays for Atlanta 2 in the USL. He profiles similarly to Brandan Craig. He has played CB and DM and I profile him more as a 6. He’s very tall and very good on the ball. I rate him enough to have wanted to see him get a chance in camp. I think he is a better prospect than Garay and Van Deventer who did get calls. 

My predicted selections: Obed Vargas (2005), Daniel Edelman (2003)

My preferred selections: Obed Vargas (2005), Danny Leyva (2003)

Next in line if there is an injury or club won’t release players: Tarun Karumanchi, UCLA (2004)

Central Midfielders

Who has been called into last two camps: Paxten Aaronson, Philadelphia Union (11/21, 2/22, 3/22), Quinn Sullivan, Philadelphia Union (11/21, 2/22, 3/22), Jack McGlynn, Philadelphia Union (11/21, 2/22, 3/22), Rokas Pukstas, Hajduk Split (11/21, 3/22), Javier Casas, Chicago Fire (2/22, 4/22), Juan Castilla, Houston Dynamo (4/22), Niko Tsakiris, San Jose Earthquakes (4/22)

Biggest snub so far: Alejandro Alvarado Jr, FC Vizela (2003): Alejandro has bounced between the first team and the reserve team for FC Vizela in Portugal’s top tier league. Alejandro recently made his first senior team start and looked very comfortable. He was the first non-Portuguese teenager to play in Portugal’s top flight. I think that alone is worthy of him getting a look with this group. He is a Mexican-American, so we’ll see if Mexico calls him into their next camp. 

My predicted selections: Paxten Aaronson (2003), Quinn Sullivan (2004), Jack McGlynn (2003)

My preferred selections: Caden Clark (2003)(I’d play him here), Paxten Aaronson (2003), Quinn Sullivan (2004), Jack McGlynn (2003)

Next in line if there is an injury or club won’t release players: Rokas Pukstas, Hajduk Split (2004)

Wingers

Who has been called into last two camps: Caden Clark, NYRB (11/21, 2/22, 3/22), Dante Sealy, PSV (11/21, 2/22, 3/22, 4/22), Brian Gutiérrez, Chicago Fire (11/21, 2/22, 3/22), Diego Luna, El Paso Locomotive (11/21, 2/22, 3/22), Kevin Paredes, Wolfsburg (3/22), Tyler Wolff, Atlanta United (3/22, 4/22), Esmir Bajraktarevic, New England Revolution (2/22, 4/22), Luca Koleosho, Espanyol (4/22), Nathan Ordaz, LAFC (4/22)

Biggest snub so far: Bora Aydinlik, Fenerbahce (2005): Bora is a Turkish-American who is highly regarded within the Fenerbahce system. In a recent interview with TransferMarket, Bora confirmed that the USSF is in contact with him and he’d be open to playing with the USA. I would have loved to see him in this latest exploratory camp. 

My predicted selections: Caden Clark (2003), Kevin Paredes (2003), Dante Sealy (2003), Brian Gutierrez (2003), Diego Luna (2003)

My preferred selections: Kevin Paredes (2003), Dante Sealy (2003), Brian Gutierrez (2003), Cade Cowell (2003)

Next in line if there is an injury or club won’t release players: Esmir Bajraktarevic, New England Revolution (2005)

Strikers

Who has been called into last two camps: Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes (11/21),  Malick Sanogo, Union Berlin (11/21, 2/22), Patrick Bohui, Vejle Boldklub (2/22), Kristian Fletcher, Loudoun United (2/22, 4/22), Damion Downs, FC Koln (4/22)

Biggest snub to date: Darren Yapi, Colorado Rapids (2004): I would have liked to see Darren invited to one of the U20 camps. He’s a prototypical #9 that can connect play, protect the ball in hold up play and be a dangerous target in the box. I think he is quality enough to play with this group and I think not inviting him to any of the camps is a misidentification of talent. 

My predicted selection: Cade Cowell (2003)

My preferred selection: Kristian Fletcher (2005)

Next in line if there is an injury or club won’t release players: N/A, Mikey has made it clear that he is cool to run with wingers playing as a false 9. 

Ricardo Pepi would be the starting 9 for this group, but it’s been made clear that the Confederation feels that Pepi has graduated past this level and is only considered for senior squads.

SUMMARY & Prediction

The 2003 group has been considered one of the most talented groups that the USSF has ever had. This is the first time that this group of players will get a chance to translate that to competitive International play. From a pure talent perspective, the US team sits at the top of the Concacaf region. Yes, I believe this group is more talented than what Mexico will bring the table. The challenge is that the talent isn’t distributed evenly across positions and not all of the players are perfect fits in the 4-3-3, high press, possession based system. Mikey has the tough job of fitting some square pegs in round holes to fit the game model that Gregg Berhalter wants to see all US teams play. To be more specific, the squad lacks athletic, box to box midfielders, a true #6 and a true #9. The team has lots of #10s and wings. Those players are going to have to deputize as #9s and #8s. How well they do that will be critical to the team’s success. 

The other major factor is who gets released for the tournament. Because the US has a lot of talent, there is a greater chance that the US has the most players withheld from the tournament, so depth is really going to be put to the test. 

This team has the potential to be incredibly dangerous in the wide areas. The full-back and winger groups are incredibly talented and will be very difficult for other defenses to maintain. The question will be if the team can make the false 9 work effectively and if the three midfielders can bring defensive stability and pitch control. 

If Mikey can get close to an A team released for the tournament, I think this team is talented enough to win the tournament. If it’s a mostly B team, making the semi-finals and qualifying for the U20 World Cup in 2023 is the bare minimum, and making the finals to win an Olympics 2024 spot should be the goal, but a mostly B team may have trouble in a final, in Central America, against a Mexico side.