Preview: USA vs. New Zealand in group game No. 2 at U-20 World Cup


Who’s up for some late-night soccer? I mean, some really late-night soccer.

At 3 am ET on Monday night/Tuesday morning, the United States’ U-20 national team will face New Zealand in their second of three group stage games at the U-20 World Cup.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s U-20 WC coverage ]

Following Friday night’s 2-1 victory over Myanmar, Tab Ramos’ side currently sits atop Group A, the group’s only nation to emerge victorious on day one of the tournament. Three hours before the Americans clawed and scraped their way to a narrow victory, Tuesday morning’s opponent, New Zealand, were busy securing a 0-0 draw with Ukraine in the tournament’s opening game.

Thanks to his one-goal, one-assist performance against Myanmar, 19-year-old Fulham midfielder Emerson Hyndman is the Yank garnering all the headlines, but ahead of Tuesday’s showdown with the tournament hosts, one question remains in the forefront of American minds: when will Gedion Zelalem make his first competitive start for the U.S.?

[ MORE: U-20 WC preview: The groups, the favorites, USA outlook and stars of the future ]

Zelalem, the 18-year-old Arsenal midfielder who was only cleared to play for the U.S. last month, made his competitive debut for the Yanks on Friday night when he came on as a second-half substitute, playing the final 35 minutes of the game (Zelalem highlights in below video). With just three days of rest between games, Zelalem could make his full competitive debut against New Zealand.

Elsewhere, 19-year-old forward Maki Tall (above photo), scorer of the U.S.’s first goal on Friday, will reportedly miss the remainder of the tournament after breaking his toe in the game against Myanmar. After leaving the game in the 49th minute, Tall was replaced by 18-year-old LA Galaxy forward Bradford Jamieson IV.

[ MORE: Caution over hype: Zelalem being handled carefully, correctly by U.S. soccer ]

Under FIFA rules, the U.S. U-20 squad will not be allowed to replace Tall on the roster.

A victory, along with Myanmar draw or defeat to Ukraine (Monday, 9 pm ET), against New Zealand would secure the U.S.’s place in the knockout rounds as, at worst, second-place finishers in Group A.