Mikey Varas
image: US Soccer

USYNT Roster for U-20 World Cup in Argentina Announced

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The final 21-man roster for the upcoming U-20 World Cup in Argentina was announced by US Soccer, balancing an experience-heavy group of players while still missing several key contributors for various reasons.

With the opening game for the young squad from Mikey Varas kicking off in ten days, US Soccer finally released the list 21 players, most of whom have already gathered in Buenos Aires, Argentina to begin training for the tournament.

According to US Soccer’s press release, the team will continue training in the Argentinean capital city through May 15, then travel westward to the city of San Juan where all three of their group-stage games are set to take place.

Much of the lead-up to the announcement was accentuated by discussion around the reticence of certain clubs to release players for the tournament, which falls outside of an official FIFA window.

While fans will be relieved that rumors surrounding the availability of Hajduk Split’s Rokas Pukstas were partially proven false by his (delayed) inclusion, the omission of several otherwise sure-fire picks will leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Most notably, miserly MLS club Chicago Fire blocked the call-ups of likely midfield starter Brian Gutiérrez and backup keeper Chris Brady, with the team’s sporting director Georg Heitz unapologetically defending his selfishness in statements made to The Athletic in recent days.

Similarly, LA Galaxy starter Jalen Neal was left off of the roster despite being one of the more promising defenders in the pool, however the presence of established players like Atlanta’s Caleb Wiley and Brandan Craig will shore up the middle.

Varas confirmed that no agreement could be reached with Eintracht Frankfurt for the release of Paxten Aaronson, who has become a regular contributor in their league and cup campaigns, which will run through early-June when they play in the DFB Pokal final against RB Leipzig.

Leipzig’s Caden Clark was also left off the roster, although it is unclear whether this was a decision of the club, or more due to the fact that he has not seen any competitive league action since late-September.

Even with the notable absences, there is enough firepower to likely secure the team’s advancement from Group B, which also includes Ecuador, Fiji and Slovakia.

Team captain and New York Red Bulls starter Daniel Edelman will take charge of the midfield, with significant support from a cast of professionally seasoned players that includes Diego Luna, Jack McGlynn, Obed Vargas and Owen Wolff.

Arguably the hottest player in the midfield, Hajduk Split’s Rokas Pukstas, will not be available until after the group stage, due to an apparent agreement that Varas struck with the parent club.

“Rokas is going to play his cup final with his team,” the coach confirmed when asked about late arrivals, referring to the May 24 Croatian Cup final between Split and Šibenik. The midfielder has been a revelation for his Croatian team this season, scoring four goals and adding two assists in 19 games, while starting in their last three games on the way to the final.

Similarly, Varas confirmed that Wolfsburg attacker Kevin Paredes will also arrive for the knockout, clarifying “Kevin will play the end of the season with Wolfsburg.”

He explained their willingness to cooperate with those two teams, stating that it was a balancing act between having a strong roster in Argentina and allowing the pair to finish out what have been breakout seasons.

“We were flexible in terms of making sure that we had the best roster possible, and also giving them those opportunities.”

Even without Paredes in the group stage, San Jose forward Cade Cowell, Philadelphia’s Quinn Sullivan and recent addition Darren Yapi of Colorado are expected to provide enough firepower to carry the team through their first three group games.

Filling out the defensive, the aforementioned Wiley and Craig are joined by European-based Justin Che and Jonathan Gomez, recent USL revelation Joshua Wynder, plus LA Galaxy youth prospects Mauricio Cuevas and Marcus Ferkranus.

Even with the disappointment of not being able to call in Brady as cover at keeper, unquestioned starter Gabriel Slonina is still expected to command the position, and will be aiming to solidify the significant global hype surrounding his potential.

Varas did explain that one player whose inclusion was always an unlikely dream of most fans, Ricardo Pepi, was never in contention due to his experience with the senior team.

“Ricardo, since the beginning of this cycle, had graduated to the men’s national team,” he clarified, adding “and that’s something we can pride ourselves on.”

He continued, “My number one responsibility is individual player development, so when a player graduates out of our program and into the older team, we take huge pride in that.”

The team will share the opening spot of the tournament with Group A’s New Zealand and Guatemala, when they take on Ecuador on May 20. Three days later, they will play group minnows Fiji, before closing out the group on May 26 against Slovakia.


GOALKEEPERS (3): 21-Alex Borto (Fulham/ENG; South Plainfield, N.J.; 2/0), 12-Antonio Carrera (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas; 4/0), 1-Gaga Slonina (Chelsea/ENG; Addison, Ill.; 5/0)

DEFENDERS (7): 17-Justin Che (Hoffenheim/GER; Dallas, Texas; 6/0), 5-Brandan Craig (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.; 10/1), 2-Mauricio Cuevas (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 13/1), 14-Marcus Ferkranus (LA Galaxy; Santa Clarita, Calif.; 11/0), 13-Jonathan Gomez (Real Sociedad/ESP; Keller, Texas; 6/0), 3-Caleb Wiley (Atlanta United FC; Atlanta, Ga.; 5/0), 4-Joshua Wynder (Louisville City FC; Louisville, Ky.; 2/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): 6-Daniel Edelman (New York Red Bulls; Warren, N.J.; 10/0), 10-Diego Luna (Real Salt Lake; Sunnyvale, Calif.; 16/4), 8-Jack McGlynn (Philadelphia Union; Middle Village, N.Y.; 16/2), 20-Rokas Pukstas (Hajduk Split/CRO; Stillwater, Okla.; 12/1), 15-Niko Tsakiris (San Jose Earthquakes; Saratoga, Calif.; 5/3), 18-Obed Vargas (Seattle Sounders FC; Anchorage, Alaska; 4/0), 16-Owen Wolff (Austin FC; Austin, Texas; 3/1)

FORWARDS (4): 9-Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; Ceres, Calif.; 7/2), 11-Kevin Paredes (Wolfsburg/GER; South Riding, Va.; 6/2), 7-Quinn Sullivan (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.; 15/7), 19-Darren Yapi (Colorado Rapids; Denver, Colo.; 3/0)


David Smith

I'm YA's resident doctor, but not the kind of doctor you would want giving you an examination anywhere outside of a lecture hall. I've been YA's feet-on-the-ground in Germany since 2008, have an affinity for overly verbose descriptions of irrelevant minutiae, keep an eye on YAs in most of the destinations on mainland Europe, and watch a whole lot of Serie A.

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