Timothy Weah

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USMNT’s Weah joins Lille in permanent transfer

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In search of first team opportunities, Timothy Weah is leaving the club where he arrived as a boy and grew into one of the world’s brightest prospects at his position.

The U.S. Men’s National Team attacker signed a five-year contract with Lille, the club announced on Saturday. The move is a full transfer for Weah, who leaves Paris Saint-Germain after joining the club in 2014 as a 13-year-old.

“For me, LOSC is the best choice to progress and earn playing time,” Weah said in a statement on the club’s website. “It’s a young and ambitious team. I know that Christophe Galtier and his staff are very professional and appreciated by the players. Joining LOSC, it’s not nothing since this team had a great season last year because a second place is a huge performance: playing the Champions League is also a dream that I will be able to achieve. To score goals in my new colors and help this club to win games and why not trophies!”

Weah became a mainstream name in U.S. Soccer households in 2017 at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, in which he scored three goals and was a breakout star along with Josh Sargent.

In 2018, with only friendlies on the schedule, Weah earned his first USMNT callups and this year was potentially going to be named to the Gold Cup squad, only for him to request that he could play at the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup. He scored twice and was terrific as the U-20s shocked the tournament by knocking out France. However, despite scoring, the USYNT was knocked out by Ecuador in the quarterfinals.

For his club, Weah has predictably found it difficult to break through. Ahead of him at PSG has been Neymar, Edinson Cavani and of course Kylian Mbappe, leaving the young American to go out on loan to Celtic to fight for minutes.

This is a great move for both Mbappe and the USMNT. Lille is a club with a reputation of raising top young players (Eden Hazard spent many formative years in the northeast of France) and with a second-place finish, Weah will have a chance to compete in the UEFA Champions League, pushing himself against the world’s best players. That will only be good for his growth as a player and for the USMNT to see him grow into a star up top or on the wing.

U.S. U-20s meeting potential head-on

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The Yanks are coming.

Given the past year for the U.S. men’s national team, that’s a statement which might’ve required different and perhaps excessive punctuation even a few months before the U-20 World Cup in Poland.

Maybe: The Yanks are coming?

Or even: The Yanks are coming?!?

[ RECAP: France 2-3 U.S. U-20s ]

There was a cautious optimism regarding the United States U-20 team heading into the tournament, no doubt. Tab Ramos’ men had suitcases full of swagger and a boatload of nerve honed from win after win in CONCACAF and plenty of advancement in their club careers.

Sebastian Soto and Timothy Weah had broken into the fold at Hannover 96 and Celtic (and PSG). Paxton Pomykal was having one of the best seasons of any midfielder in MLS, and a handful of players including Chris Richards and Alex Mendez took MLS Academy-developed careers to Bundesliga clubs.

Ukraine, Nigeria, and Qatar was a manageable group, not an easy one, but if the hype and hope met halfway the Baby Yanks could have a shot at placing for the first time in 20 years (when the tournament had fewer teams).

Looking at the tournament field, the mandate of the ambitious seemed simple: Don’t just advance, but win the group and probably avoid France. The oddsmakers had France as better than even money to win the tournament.

So when the Baby Yanks’ early 1-0 lead turned into a 2-1 deficit via goals before and after halftime, many would’ve been forgiven for sensing in air of inevitability. That Ramos’ men would flip the script with two goals in the final 16 minutes was wondrous.

Perhaps that amazement is a product of how much weight was put on the Baby Yanks winning Group D with the hopes of avoiding France. Maybe that added to the specter of Les Bleus, casting a longer shadow over the field.

Of course it could all fall apart for the U-20s against Ecuador, even though the Yanks will be favored in Gdynia. These are young players, more likely to be swayed by in-game emotions. Wisdom is there to be gained from these tournaments, win or lose.

Yet this makes three-straight quarterfinal berths for the U.S. who, by the way, has U-20 eligible Josh Sargent on USMNT duty.

It’s a terrific feather in the cap of Ramos, whose 2017 squad took eventual finalists Venezuela to penalty kicks in the quarters and had neither Christian Pulisic nor Weston McKennie on the roster (Tyler Adams and Sargent were there, it should be noted).

That Venezuela team, for what it’s worth, lost to England who had Lewis Cook, Dominic Solanke, Dominic Calvert-Lewin as three of a several to now have Premier League experience under their belts. 2015 winners, Serbia, defeated the U.S. in the quarters (penalty kicks) and had Sergej Milinković-Savić and Marko Grujic.

The U-20 World Cup isn’t a kingmaker of a tournament, and many stars of this month (and last) won’t dance onto FIFPro Best XI, but tell any sad sacks trying to thumb their nose at this U.S. win to take a hike.

Only eight teams will remain once Argentina and Mali finish their tangle on Tuesday, and the United States is alive. For a men’s program which failed so fantastically in World Cup and Olympic qualifying, these wins are welcome feats of strength.

And really, it could be huge given the full USMNT’s promise under Gregg Berhalter, with three key players 20 years old and promise building into the Gold Cup and, we can only hope, the 2022 World Cup.

U.S. readies for loaded France at U-20 World Cup

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It’s the day any U-20 World Cup hopeful wanted to put off for as long as possible: the date with France.

Though Mali did its best to help the United States avoid that moment, the Baby Yanks will have to duel with the mighty French in the Round of 16 on Tuesday.

Well, okay then: Here is the chance to send a message to the world that your country’s prospects are just as bright as the reigning World Cup champions’ youngsters?

Somehow defying the favorites to win the tournament would be an incredible feather in the cap of Tab Ramos’ young men, themselves as well-regarded as any other tournament team despite a stumble in the opener against Ukraine and a nervy finale versus Qatar.

There have been several stars for the U.S., which has seen fine performances from Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Sebastian Soto (Hannover 96), and others, but there’s little doubt that the X-factor is Timothy Weah. The son of Liberian great George Weah, Timothy assisted in the opener against Ukraine and scored the lone goal against stingy Qatar.

Now the Paris Saint-Germain youth will be tested by a French team who boasts talents from the biggest names in Europe. There’s fellow PSG striker Moussa Diaby, Borussia Monchengladbach mainstay (at age 19!) Mikael Cuisance, and Borussia Dortmund’s Dan-Axel Zagadou amongst others.

Perhaps a better way to look at Tuesday’s challenge is to list some of the players France did not select for the team: Fiorentina starting goalkeeper Alban Lafont, Eintracht Frankfurt contributor Evan N’Dicka, Arsenal’s Matteo Guendouzi (Europa League duty), RB Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konate, and PSG’s Stanley Nsoki.

Yikes.

The 2013 champions, France won a pair of 2-0 matches before their 3-2 thriller with Mali. Bernard Diomède’s men will not bat an eye at the United States, and his 4-3-3 has an attacking bend.

Ramos has used that formation at the tournament, too, but perhaps it’s telling that he opted for a more defensive 4-3-3 in a 2-2 draw with the French in March. Chris Durkin and Alex Mendez sat in holding roles, while Frankie Amaya pushed the creative buttons. That’s an even tougher midfield with Pomykal in for Amaya, so perhaps we will see Ramos go with the same tactics he chose in the group stage despite the step up in opposition.

Granted we’re talking months, but France’s average age of 19.8 is the oldest at the tournament, seven months senior to the Yanks’ 19.1 (only Mali and Senegal are younger).

Weah’s late strike pushes U.S. into Round of 16

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Timothy Weah’s 76th minute goal pushed the United States U-20 men’s national team past Qatar and into the knockout rounds of the 2019 World Cup in Poland.

The USYNT finishes second in Group D, and will face the winner of France and Mali’s Friday Group E decider in the Round of 16 (June 4 in Bydgoszcz).

[ MORE: Champions League story lines ]

The Americans were flirting with an early exit from the tournament for most of the match, with Ukraine and Nigeria locked at 1.

Qatar had lost to Nigeria 4-0 and Ukraine 1-0, while the U.S. lost 2-1 to Ukraine and beat Nigeria 2-0.

Moments after Weah’s marker, the Baby Yanks had a chance to put the match to bed, but Qatar goalkeeper Shehab Ellethy dove right to parry Alex Mendez’s penalty kick.

Ellethy then stopped Weah 1v1 in the 89th minute to keep the knockout round berth in the balance.

 

What to expect as U.S. kicks off U-20 World Cup

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Tab Ramos’ United States men’s national team may have a navigable U-20 World Cup group, but it doesn’t set-up nicely.

Not that supporters are ready to make excuses; The U.S. is expected to make a decent run over the next month in Poland.

[ WATCH: The U-20 World Cup on Telemundo ]

Timothy Weah, Paxton Pomykal, and the Baby Yanks meet Ukraine at 2:30 p.m. ET in their Group D debut, hopeful of a run past the quarterfinals. The Americans haven’t played three post-group stage matches since a fourth place finish in 1999.

A group win is imperative with loaded favorites France expected to win Group E and set for a spot on the other side of the knockout bracket.

Aside from Josh Sargent’s call-up to the full USMNT, the Yanks have every reason to be optimistic about their potential. The 21-man player squad breaks down to six players on German sides, 10 American-based players, two from the Netherlands, and one each from Portugal, Spain, and France.

Weah is probably the most exciting one of the bunch, having success at Celtic on loan from PSG and earning high praise from Neymar amongst others, but Pomykal is one of the best MLS products in some time as a center midfielder.

Both Pomykal and Chris Durkin are getting significant minutes at the Major League Soccer level, while Mark McKenzie has nearly 20 with the Philadelphia Union as a senior player.

Beyond that are exciting strikers Sebastian Soto, who debuted for Hannover 96 this season, and Wolfsburg prospect Ulysses Llanez.

But the Yanks will look to Weah for that extra special something, the 19-year-old scoring six goals between PSG and Celtic this season.

Friday’s debut will be followed by a Monday match against Nigeria before Thursday’s tango witj Qatar.

Winning Group D means the third-place team from B, E, or F, while finishing second is a Round of 16 match-up with France, who boasts a number of high-end players already playing regularly at the highest levels of European soccer.