U.S. U-20 MNT

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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).

Carleton, Mendez headline U.S. U-20 squad for Spain training camp

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With about two months left to go before the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Tab Ramos is getting one last look at his U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team squad.

Ramos called up 20 players to a training camp in Spain, with upcoming friendly matches against Japan and France. The squad features a mix of domestic-based and foreign-based players, including CONCACAF U-20 Championship star Alex Mendez, Ajax wingback Serginho Dest and Bayern Munich reserve defender Chris Richards.

Domestically, Atlanta United’s Andrew Carleton, New York City FC’s Juan Pablo Torres and D.C. United’s Chris Durkin all join a squad of players fighting for a chance to be in the final squad of 21. Uncapped call-ups include Seattle Sounders Homegrown signing Trey Muse, Columbus Crew Homegrown signing Aboubacar Keita, Durkin, Jonathan Amon of FC Nordsjaelland, and FC Barcelona’s Konrad de la Fuente.

“I’m looking forward to our last camp before the U-20 World Cup,” Ramos said in a statement. “With competition against two quality opponents, it’s one more opportunity for us to build a strong core and one more chance for the players to leave a good impression in order to be considered for the final 21-player roster. Japan always has highly skilled youth teams and France is always a World Cup contender.”

The U.S. U-20s first play France on March 22, before facing Japan on March 25.

The U.S. will face Qatar, Nigeria and Ukraine in Group D at the U-20 World Cup in Poland.

Here’s a look at the US U-20 MNT’s squad:

GOALKEEPERS (2): C.J. Dos Santos (Benfica/POR; Philadelphia, Pa.; 1/0), Trey Muse (Seattle Sounders FC; Louisville, Ky.; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (6): Sergino Dest (Ajax/NED; Almere-Stad, Netherlands; 6/1), Chris Gloster (Hannover 96/GER; South Orange, N.J.; 9/0), Aboubacar Keita (Columbus Crew SC; Columbus, Ohio; 0/0), Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting Kansas City; Charlotte, N.C.; 5/0), Matthew Real (Philadelphia Union; Drexel Hill, Pa.; 8/0), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich/GER; Hoover, Ala.; 6/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Frankie Amaya (FC Cincinnati; Santa Ana, Calif.; 11/1), Christian Cappis (Hobro/DEN; Katy, Texas; 2/0); Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United FC; Powder Springs, Ga.; 5/2), , Chris Durkin (D.C. United; Glen Allen, Va.; 0/0), Alex Mendez (Freiburg/GER; Los Angeles, Calif.; 13/8), Juan Pablo Torres (New York City FC; Lilburn, Ga.; 10/4)

FORWARDS (6): Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC/CAN; Detroit, Mich.; 10/9), Jonathan Amon (Nordsjaelland/DEN; Summerville, S.C.; 0/0), Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona/ESP; Barcelona, Spain; 0/0), Ulysses Llanez (Unattached; Lynwood, Calif.; 9/7), Justin Rennicks (New England Revolution; Hamilton, Mass.; 12/6), Sebastian Soto (Hannover 96/GER; San Diego, Calif.; 3/2)

U.S. learns U-20 World Cup group; Mexico draw brutal mates

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The United States U-20 men’s national team knows its group stage opponents for this summer’s World Cup in Poland.

Nigeria, Qatar, and Ukraine are the Baby Yanks’ Group D mates, and now Tab Ramos can begin a proper plan for a tournament run.

[ MORE: JPW’s from Man Utd-Liverpool | Stars+Duds ]

The U.S. has twice made the quarterfinals of the tournament (2015, 2017) after a poor group stage in 2013 and a failure to qualify altogether in 2011.

The draw was far less kind to Mexico, who will face Italy, Ecuador, and Japan.

Two teams from every group advance out of the stage, while four of six third place teams will also make the knockout rounds.

USMNT forward Josh Sargent will be eligible but hasn’t been called up by the side since March due to senior team obligations.

U.S. U-20 MNT sets up rematch with Mexico in CONCACAF U-20 Championship

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CONCACAF’s two soccer giants will duke it out for the region’s Under-20 title on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2013 final.

Toronto FC’s Ayo Akinola’s lone goal in the 51st minute was enough to lift the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team over Honduras, 1-0, in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship. The win sets up a final with neighbor Mexico, which is in fine form just like the U.S. heading into the final.

[READ: UEFA Nations League recap]

CONCACAF switched its format this year, hosting 34 of the region’s 41 teams in a much larger tournament than before, taking place at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Both the U.S. and Mexico walked through the group stage: The U.S. beat the U.S. Virgin Islands 13-0 and even Trinidad and Tobago, 6-1, while Mexico routed Aruba, 10-0.

In the second stage of the competition, the U.S. and Mexico both topped their groups, the U.S. routing Costa Rica, 4-0 before the Honduras result on Monday, while Mexico beat El Salvador and tied Panama.

After a disastrous 2011 U-20 run, which saw the U.S. miss out on World Cup qualification, the program has rebounded, sending teams to the 2013, 2015 and 2017 U-20 World Cups. This year’s squad could be better than some of the previous ones, with many players even eligible for the 2021 World Cup cycle. Ulysses Llanez has been a revelation up front, Akinola has continued his terrific form from the U.S. U-17s with seven goals in this tournament, and Philadelphia Union defensive pair Matthew Real and Mark McKenzie have been solid along the backline.

Amazingly, this isn’t even the U.S.’ best squad if it had everyone to pick from. On-loan defender Chris Richards joined halfway through the competition from Bayern Munich, Indiana University’s Trey Muse wasn’t called in, and European-based players such as Josh Sargent and Jonathan Amon are still eligible, as is now U.S. Men’s National Team regular Tyler Adams.

Mexico as always will be a difficult opponent to beat. The star of the show is 18-year-old Diego Lainez of Club America, who has already been capped by El Tri, while Jose Macias has scored 10 goals in the tournament.

The U.S. and Mexico square off on Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. ET.