Pressure to qualify for any FIFA tournament is always high, but recent failures on the United States side will add extra weight to upcoming efforts to breach the field for the upcoming FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Turkey.
The tournament is this summer; qualifying for our region takes place in Mexico in February.
Tab Ramos, the dynamic U.S. international who presided over the American midfield through the 1990s, is in charge. The core of the team is currently in camp in Florida, with added lights being shined in their direction.
The United States failed to qualify for the previous under-20 World Cup; that cost then-coach Thomas Rongen his job with U.S. Soccer. That qualification blunder looked less like an anomaly and more like a disturbing trend when Caleb Porter’s U.S. under-23 team bombed out of Olympic qualifying last spring.
The United States will face Haiti and Costa Rica in under-20 World Cup qualifying group play – which is barely group play when just three teams are involved. That is, one loss could prove too much to overcome.
Two teams advance from there into what amounts to the money round, the tournament quarterfinals; quarterfinal winners move into the summer’s under-20 World Cup in Turkey.
For more of the nitty-gritty, this piece from Yanks Abroad has more of the names Ramos is counting on, and details some of the challenges he will face over the next two months.