Top Stories

Who should the U.S. U-20s start vs. Myanmar?

U.S. U-20s XI vs. Australia


The Under-20 World Cup is about to begin, and so too are the tough decisions for Tab Ramos.

The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team is set to open a World Cup campaign that is filled with lofty expectations on Saturday morning (12:01 am ET, Fox Sports 1), taking on a relatively unknown team in Myanmar at Northland Events Center in Whangarei. The Americans are expected to control the run of play in the Group A match, but U.S. head coach Ramos will need to figure out what pieces best fit together in order for the possession to translate into production and ultimately three points.

Ramos has indicated that he plans to move the U.S. to a 4-4-2 diamond formation for the World Cup in New Zealand, but the wealth of options that he has at his disposal will surely make it difficult to settle on a starting eleven. Choosing players for the midfield and forward spots will be especially tough given the loaded and healthy stable he has to pick from, a stable that includes Emerson Hyndman, Gedion Zelalem and Joel Sonora.

Who will start against Myanmar? Here is the lineup SBI thinks Ramos could deploy:


US U20 Lineup Graphic

Some thoughts:

The goalkeeper and centerback positions seem to be pretty straight forward. Promising youngster Zack Steffen will get the nod in between the pipes, and in front of him should be the tandem of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga that did so well in World Cup qualifying in Jamaica in January.

The fullback spots have a little more uncertainty. Talented newcomer Desevio Payne could snatch away a starting role from one of Shaquell Moore or John Requejo, but it appears more likely that Payne takes the Requejo’s after starting ahead of him at left back in the recently friendly against Australia. Payne did get badly beat in the build-up to Australia’s goal in that game, but his first-team minutes should help his case.

The more interesting and difficult selections for Ramos come further up the field. Kellyn Acosta figures to return to the holding midfield spot he was used in during the early parts of qualifying, but the other five spots are question marks.

Emerson Hyndman is a shoo-in to start given that he’s the captain of the team, but he is capable of playing in any of the more advanced midfield positions. Against Myanmar, Hyndman could slot in on the right to allow Joel Sonora to be deployed in the No. 10 spot. Sonora scored an incredible goal against Australia, and Ramos has been raving about the Boca Juniors youngster for some time.

That leaves the left side of the midfield. Most might be inclined to think that promising Arsenal prospect Gedion Zelalem gets the nod there, but his unfamiliarity with his American teammates might prove a hurdle too big to overcome, at least in this match.

Zelalem did not start in the friendly vs. Australia, and the inclusions of Hyndman and Sonora could leave Ramos wanting a more dynamic player on the wing to help break down a Myanmar side that will likely throw numbers behind the ball. Tommy Thompson is an option, but Paul Arriola seems more likely after being used out wide for much of the cycle.

Up top, Ramos could go a number of ways. He has Thompson, Rubio Rubin, Bradford Jamieson, Jordan Allen and Maki Tall available, but Rubin seems a lock to start given his experience at the club level and with the full U.S. team. The other spot will likely need to be filled with someone a bit quicker and craftier, and Jamieson offers that skillset while also being able to pose a threat by making runs in behind.

What do you think of this projected lineup? Think it would be wise to leave Zelalem on the bench for now? Who would you start?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. With Canouse going down through injury, this team needs Acosta to play well and say healthy. There is no true replacement for him on the roster.

    • I agree, Canouse was very good and important during qualifying. He allowed Hyndman to get further up field. I think Acosta can do the job but he needs to stay disciplined and connected to the back four. .

    • Really? That’s not what I’ve read or What Arsene Wenger has stated. Maybe he just comes deep to collect the ball a lot? Very possible.

  2. I like this lineup a lot, but is Hyndman capable of playing out wide? I’ve only watched him play centrally or in an attacking mid role. I am also pretty excited about all the options we have off the bench.

    • I think if you see this lineup, Jamieson will float out wide a good bit and Hyndman will play more narrowly in those situations.

    • Jack, in the Klinsmann version of a diamond 4-4-2, one of the “wide” players isn’t really a wide player, but instead a central-midfielder that tucks in on offense, and only goes out wide in defense.


      1. Jermaine Jones was our wide-left midfielder during the World Cup. Didn’t really play wide though.
      2. Alfredo Morales was our wide-left midfielder during the last European friendlies, didn’t really play wide though.

      • I think Hyndman would be fine there based on the little I’ve seen of him. As UCLA points out, in a diamond the width is really provided by the fullbacks, not the “wide” midfielders.

      • Precisely. In fact this is where Hyndman plays for Fulham. No one plays a wide diamond. Its a fantasy league tactic.

      • UCLA,
        This is true, but that was set up because we had overlapping fullbacks and the personnel he brought to Brazil best suited that type of approach. So it may be apples and oranges… I don’t know enough about the outside backs on this squad.
        We shall see, I’m pretty psyched to see these young uns play

      • I think that Moore and Payne have shown the ability to play as overlapping wing backs.

      • Excellent.. I’m psyched to stay up till 2 AM and watch. The 23’s looked much better today, hope the 20’s don’t get off to a slow start

  3. Too close to call. No matter who starts, someone with a lot of promise is going to be on the bench.

    Hard to imagine Thompson not starting, but playing time has been minimal with SJ and he could be a great super sub option at this level. Jordan Allen also playing very well for RSL while Arriolla has been spotty, including in qualifying.

    Agree Zelalem will probably come off bench to start the tournament.

  4. There are only two changes I can see happening from this lineup, maybe three:

    Not very likely: Delgado over Acosta
    Maybe: Zelalem over Sonora
    Likely: Tall over Jamieson

    • Very Likely: Thompson over either Sonora or Arriola

      He’s better than both, specifically in the eyes of Ramos. He can also play multiple roles and is more tactically flexible.

      • I could be wrong because I haven’t seen Thompson play and I’m too lazy to look at his highlights right now, but Sonora and Arriola are both very good players and I like them a lot on paper.

      • Thompson is quality. I wasn’t convinced until I saw him in the San Jose v Atletico friendly. He has better field sense (anticipation and movement) than any player in the pool, and he has a motor that never stops. More importably he’s been ever present as a starter since Ramos gave him an opportunity and can play in multiple roles. I probably haven’t seen enough of Sonora to be as bold as I was in my earlier post, but he is better than Arriola who I honestly think is over-rated.

        Thompson is small and not overly fast, but he has the soccer brain that most American players lack.

      • Thompson was starting over Arriola after the first couple matches of qualifying. I don’t know if Arriola’s done enough to win the spot back since.

Leave a Comment