Trying to draw conclusions from under-age international soccer tournaments is often a tricky proposition. For instance, earlier this week Spain hoisted the UEFA u-21 crown thanks to a standout performance from Thiago. It’s much easier to determine what kind of player he is — along with guys like Isco and David De Gea — when they happen to play for clubs who participate in the Champions League.
Friday the United States kicks off in the U-20 World Cup in Istanbul, Turkey, as coach Tab Ramos leads the team up against Spain which features Liverpool’s Suso, Real Madrid youngster Jese Rodriguez and, oddly, only one player from the FC Barcelona’s ranks. The U.S., playing in the event for the first time since 2009, also faces Ghana and France in group play. All three U.S. group matches, along with Mexico’s, will air on ESPN over-the-air networks and the rest of the tournament will be available through ESPN3 so you might pay attention to it since there’s not much else going on now that it’s summer.
The American roster for the tournament is a mix of college players, guys in MLS or the Liga MX with a few German-based players sprinkled in. Three names to keep an eye on are Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Jose Villareal, Seattle Sounders right back DeAndre Yedlin and Real Salt Lake’s Luis Gil. Overall the roster has a Latino feel to it, which bears watching since the U.S. Soccer Federation has talked for years about getting America’s growing Hispanic population involved with the national team.
What will the 2013 U-20 World Cup produce? Four years ago in Egypt the U.S. was beaten 3-0 by South Korea in the final group stage game and were eliminated before the knockout rounds. That squad has yet to yield very much senior international talent, with Brek Shea and Mix Diskerud the most notable names.
The 2007 tournament was a mixed bag for the U.S. It defeated Brazil, which had David Luiz and Alexandre Pato on its roster, in the group stage but lost to Austria in the quarterfinals. The team did feature a lot of mainstays for the current USMNT including Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. A guy named Freddy Adu also starred for the Americans in Canada, but the less said of him, the better if only to prove the point of speculating off under-age FIFA tournament is so often a fool’s errand.
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