U.S. U-20 World Cup Round of 16 preview: Colombia in the wee hours

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Wellington is the setting for the United States’ first knockout round match of the U-20 World Cup, which kicks off early Wednesday morning (3 a.m. ET).

After failing to escape the group stage in three-straight tournaments — even missing the 2011 World Cup in Colombia — the States finished second to Ukraine in Group A this go-round.

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Now Tab Ramos’ squad needs to outlast Colombia to reach its first quarterfinal since 2007.

The game is certainly one the Yanks will expect to win, as Colombia’s lone victory in group play was 1-0 over Qatar. Colombia drew Senegal 1-1 and lost to Portugal 3-1.

That goal scored against Portugal was the difference in keeping Colombia ahead of Senegal for second in Group C.

While Gedion Zelalem’s fancy footwork has been getting a lot of online love, Fulham product Emerson Hyndman is the U.S. captain and its key to victory. He scored a pair of goals in the group stage.

Maki Tall, who scored against England in March and Myanmar in the tourney opener, is out for the rest of the tournament. Rubio Rubin (Utrecht) and Bradford Jamieson IV (L.A. Galaxy) could be the pairing to help in his absence.

Zack Steffen (right, Freiburg) will also be a pivotal piece of the puzzle, as the goalkeeper was victimized for a trio of goals at the hands of Viktor Kovalenko in the group stage finale. Ukraine won the group and instead faces… Senegal.

The winner gets Serbia or Hungary on June 14 in Auckland.