The United States had their sights set on becoming the best American side at the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, but a unfortunate finish–a 6-5 penalty shootout loss to Serbia–eliminated the Stars and Stripes in the quarter final.
While making it that far was applaudable for the U.S., head coach Tab Ramos and the team echoed almost identical feelings on the heels of their bow out, where multiple PK attempts were missed to finalize defeat.
Arsenal youngster Gedion Zelalem, who started and played the entirety of the match for Ramos and Co., has acted as a key component in midfield for the duration of the tournament.
He noted that the journey was not the ideal result for his team, but commended the encouraging future of American soccer, which Zelalem believes has few limits.
“I think we’ve done well, but we also want to reach higher,” he said to FIFA.com. “We’re not satisfied just getting to quarter-finals. We want to be reaching finals and winning tournaments.”
“It’s getting bigger and better all the time,” he said of football in the US. “Major League Soccer definitely is and, at national team level, we’re also improving. Players are getting better on the ball and we’re starting to see a new style of play, keeping the ball and passing and moving.
“We’re definitely progressing. How much potential do we have? A lot. I think at the next World Cup you could see us do really well.”
We’ve heard the same opinion that the U.S. is on the verge of a breakthrough many times before, but to put this tournament into perspective, take a look at best-case scenarios of the past. The best conclusion to the U-20 World Cup came in 1989–a fourth-place resolution–with the presence of goalkeeper Kasey Keller and former Kansas City Wizards coach Bob Gansler
But the current U.S. U-20’s tied the highest win total (3) in the World Cup, only matched in 2007 and 2003. Not bad at all.