Americans Abroad

U.S. U20s Learn CONCACAF Championship Opponents

US players react during the penalty shootout in the FIFA U20 World Cup quarter-final match between the USA and Serbia in Auckland on June 14, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Fiona GOODALL (Photo credit should read Fiona GOODALL/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. U20s Learn CONCACAF Championship Opponents

The USA U-20 men’s national team will face Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Haiti in Group B of the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in Costa Rica next February.

The draw took place on Monday afternoon at the National Stadium in San Jose, Costa Rica.

In addition to crowning a regional champion, four teams will qualify for the 2017 U-20 World Cup which will be held in South Korea from May 20- June 11.

Under the new format, designed to increase the number of meaningful, competitive matches, the top two teams from Groups A, B, and C will advance to the Classification Stage, where the Confederation’s four tickets to the World Cup at this level will be determined in round robin play among two groups of three teams each. The top two teams of each of the two Classification Stage groups will qualify as CONCACAF representatives to the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017~ CONCACAF PRESS RELEASE

The Tournament will take place from February 17- March 5th in Costa Rica. The central American country is a worry-free choice for CONCACAF considering it’s successful hosting of the U-17 Women’s world cup in 2014.

The U.S. will play Panama at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa on February 18.

They will then head across San Jose to face Haiti on February 21.

The Red, White and Blue will finish group play against the Saint Kitts and Nevis on February 24.

Reigning Champions Mexico will face Antigua & Barbuda, Honduras and Canada in Group A.

Host Costa Rica will entertain El Salvador, Bermuda and Trinidad & Tobago in Group C.

The U.S. has never won the title, despite making it to the final on six separate occasions, with the last being in 2013. It’s neighbor to the south and fiercest rival, Mexico, has won 13 of the 20 editions, including the last three tournaments.

 

The Yanks have qualified for nine of the last 10 U-20 World Cups, missing out in 2011.

Qualification, on paper at least, seems straight forward. Tab Ramos’ men recently beat Panama 4-0 in July’s U-20 National Training Center Invitational in Carson, California.

 

Recent results haven’t been kind on the young Stars and Stripes, but October’s Four Nations tournament in Manchester, England served as the perfect tune-up.

The U.S. opened with a 1-0 loss to Germany, came up on the wrong end of a 5-3 goal-fest against the Netherlands and finished with a 2-0 loss to the hosts.

Not too much can be looked into those results, however, in evaluating the squad to take Costa Rica and hopefully South Korea, Ramos has brought different players into every camp.

Due to the location and timing of the event, the Four Nations Tournament featured mostly professional players from MLS and European clubs who hadn’t necessarily been to many camps.

For instance, Gedion Zelalem and Cameron Carter-Vickers hadn’t been involved with the U-20s since the 2015 World Cup.

 

Even so, it was more of a chance for Ramos to put his cream of the crop to the test in a tournament that simulated the round robin experience of the CONCACAF Championship and hopefully the World Cup.

Jeremy Ebobisse will be a key figure for the U.S. Already signed to an MLS contract, the 19-year-old scored a hat-trick against the Netherlands and has eight international goals in 2016.

 

In addition to Zelalem, Carter-Vickers and Ebobisse, Fulham’s Marlon Fossey and Luca De La Torre could also make the roster after strong showings at July’s NTC and the Four Nations Tournament.

Other players to keep an eye on are Toni Suddoth of VfB Stuttgart, Brooks Lennon of Liverpool, Former FC Dallas academy product and now Schalke 04 midfielder Weston McKinnie, and Emmanuel Sabbi of UD Las Palmas.

The USA bowed out in the quarterfinals of the 2015 U-20 World Cup, losing 6-5 on penalties to eventual champions Serbia following a 0-0 draw.

The Stars and Stripes will be looking to match or better it’s best ever run of fourth place all the way back in the 1989 tournament held in Saudi Arabia.

Before the U.S. can even begin to think about that however, they must advance out of group B and fight it’s way through the round robin section of the playoffs. As we know from any CONCACAF tournament, the only thing to expect is the unexpected.

Keep it here on The Stoppage Time, powered by Azteca Soccer, for all of your soccer news. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Americans Abroad

More in Americans Abroad