Top Stories

SBI Question of the Day: Who was the best U.S. Player at the Under-20 World Cup?




As the soccer world continues to spin, the Under-20 World Cup already feels like a distant memory for U.S. fans after seeing their team eliminated on Saturday. Now that some time has passed, and the pain of that dreadful penalty shootout loss has subsided, it is time to take one final look back at the U.S. team’s performance.

With that in mind, it is time to think about the many standouts for the U.S. at the Under-20 World Cup. Choosing one above the rest isn’t easy, and we on the SBI editorial staff are torn on just which player had the best tournament.

There are a half-dozen contenders in the mix for consideration. From Zack Steffen and his many big-time saves, to the defensive work of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga. From Rubio Rubin’s important goals, to Paul Arriola’s consistent efforts throughout the tournament.

Which U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team player do you think had the best Under-20 World Cup? Cast your vote after the jump:

[polldaddy poll=8936609]

Who did you vote for? Which American player do you feel had the most underrated World Cup? Which player are you most excited to see develop?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. If you’re choosing the best performer in this tournament, it has to be Miazga. I think CCV was the most IMPRESSIVE player for the U.S. and there are many players who appear to have bright futures, but the fact remains that the U.S. defense got shredded in the Ukraine game while Miazga was out and CCV was there.

    Steffen was stellar as well, but he had that one major gaffe in the first game. But, again, in this tourney, Miazga was the rock. The U.S. only allowed one goal while he was on the field, and that goal was on Steffen.

  2. Miazga, slightly edging out CCV

    Followed closely by Steffen and Payne

    Then Arriola and Rubin

    Most alarming fail- the 600 plus voters giving Payne 1% of the vote

  3. If heart and love for the crest was the question, Paul Arriola would win in a landslide. I hope we can have him in the USMNT locker room in the future.

    • +1 Looking at all the above comments, I’m glad to see I was hardly alone in being impressed by how hard Arriola balled for every second he was on the field. I was always be proud of guys who play like that (Franki Hejduk comes to mind).

      In a results-oriented sense, this will always go down as a “what might have been” tournament. But it wasn’t bad, and it didn’t fee like a “step backward” at all. For me, the most important outcome is identifying 3-5 players with legit senior futures, and I think we did that.

  4. Not saying zelalem was the best player but I thought he was good and maybe the hype machine took away from his performance and people expected him to out class everybody and did in the new Zealand game.

  5. This is so tough because at different stages of the tourney, I would have a different answer.

    Hyndman was great but I think he faded as the tourney went on. (he has great potential).

    Arriola on the other hand seemed to have picked it up for the team later in the knockout rounds.
    I like him. Good energy. He is an example that I think is a very good player for this level but do I see potential up the ladder? I hope I am wrong but I do not see it.

    Miazga – rough start to the tourney. Had a lot of fouls called against him. But settled and did really well as it progressed. My gripe with him was that he was not a good passer out of back.

    Steffen – awesome keeper and I think he is our future. Certainly over Cropper or any others in the youth system. Was a rock. And really did enough to deserve that PK win. I am field player biased and I do not recall a game where I thought, Steffen won the game for them.

    Rubin – well, it was always about him. He needed to really step up for this group in order for them to make a deep run. He had a chance to put the US into the semis and didnt finish his chance.
    That has to be a major knock. Whether it is fair or not (injuries really took out his attacking help),
    I think he needed to step up more in front of goal.

    GZ – surprised he got votes. glad to have seen him play in these games. we have to wonder whether he truly is ready for a senior team call up. Based on what i saw, no. But, i wonder how he would be with a better team around him. His positioning is awesome and a strength of his game. Very intelligent which is hard to teach. having senior players making better runs for him may really highlight his game. my worries are defensive responsibilities and relying too much on that right foot.

    Carters Vickers – I think deserves this. He was solid from start to finish. I could not believe he is that young. The way he played, I would not be surprised to see him being capped after the Gold Cup. As a CB, that is saying something. Now, he went up against fellow boys. That always has to be taken into account. Only knock on his tourney was the missed PK. Cant blame the kid though.
    I would say that he had the most positive effect on this team from start to finish – Ukraine being the blip.

    Per others comments, I did not know of the English threat. Not too worried though. We have have more upside and have the upper hand with him being part of a youth World Cup.
    Let JK do what he does best in that department.

    • Before I get beat up (rightly so), I am going to correct myself. I forgot about Steffen’s PK save vs. Colombia. That certainly was game saving.

      So to me, its Steffen vs. Carter Vickers. As stated, I will let my field bias be the reason why I pick Carter Vickers.

      • Luke,

        No matter how well they play and how inspirational they are, keepers can’t win you a game.

        You need to score at least one goal and keepers don’t do that , at least not normally. Normally someone else has to score.

        All a keeper like Steffen or Solo can do is preserve a tie or a lead and thereby give the team a better chance to win.

        That is just how it is with keepers.

      • Sure. If you are Jose Luis Chilavaert and score on a free kick and then shut out the other team.

        Otherwise, the best you can do is save the lead or hold them to a tie.

        You need someone to score to win. .

      • Chilavaert!!! Loved him

        this is a silly semantics argument seems to me. Just the confidence alone a great goalie can give your team can win you the game, let alone not allowing anyone to score. Someone who scores wins you the game…that’s it?? disagree again my friend

      • Chilavert was awesome. He would have been a superstar w the Galaxy though he might have had a hard time getting his free kicks on goal what with all the competition.

        This is not a semantics argument.

        It is impossible to win a game without scoring a goal.

        If Preki does not score you’d be talking about that great 0-0 TIE where KK stood on his head and stoned Brazil.

    • I am ok with your assessments except for Rubio. The kid is all about the team and is the most non entitled young player I have ever met. He was left up top to fend Shite balls and left over scrap. He actually turned one of those into a goal that saved our bacon. He was played incorrectly as was Arriola, Jordan, Delgado and maybe even Emmerson. As far as Rubio is concerned, he is a gem.

    • I don’t have a problem with the assesements except Rubio’s is not correct.
      The kid is all about team. He was used the wrong way and had to pick up scraps. He actually turned one of those into a goal that saved our bacon.
      I didn’t like the way he Allen, Arriola, Delgado and even Emmerson were used. Ok throw GZ in there as well.
      Rubio is a gem. A potential star.

      • Sepp,

        I agree fully. I think that Ramos was putting players into roles which they were not suited to play. For example, if you’re gong to play a narrow diamond, why select Allen as he is really a wide midfielder/winger?

        Hyndman is a promising player who needs a reliable tackling player next to him in midfield. Without Canouse this should have been Acosta, but that means Requejo or Moore have to start as fullbacks and we saw how they performed with cover from a true wide midfielder. Their inadequacies were evident and team became too narrow in attack. After Tall and Jameson went down, the dye was cast.

  6. more interested in who make the jump to the senior team first. i see a lot of first team talent here and a lot of guys who should be pushing for the Olympic team maybe the WC after.

    every u20 WC there are a good list of players who make this jump within 3 years or less; ’07 u20WC brought us DiMaria, Aguero, Pique, Mata, Chicarito, Gio, Altidore, Bradley, Vidal, Suarez and Cavaini all were playing in South Africa. ’11 to ’14 we had Greizmann, Koke, Oscar, Willian, Lamela, Isco, Campbell..

    i wouldn’t expect more than 1-2 players, more in cycle after, but its hard to imagine Hyndman, CCV, Steffan, Zelaem, Payne, Arriola, Thompson, Maki Tall others not on the national team radar in 3-5 years time or less.

    • Beto,

      I think that 4-5 senior starters could emerge from this group as there are some remarkable prospects. We also need to remember that two likely starters, Novakovic and Canouse weren’t able to play and that Gall, who looked very good in qualifying wasn’t selected because he had just returned to fitness.

      There are two issues which dictate development the most. One is their desire to reach the next level and the other is their decision making in terms of which club(s) they choose to play for.

      Carter-Vickers for example is universally seen as a top prospect from this cycle, but he’s at Tottenham which means he won’t be playing soon, so to improve he’ll need to go out on loan, the when and where of which won’t even be up to him.

  7. I think CCV will go the highest and farthest and had a wonderful tournament. But I had to vote for Steffen for his outstanding saves, both shoot out and penalty kick.

    • +1. I had been very eager to see what all the fuss about CCV was about, and boy did he deliver. He is a physical freak with the positional sensibility and IQ to match. I am hard pressed to think of a single prospect in the last decade as solid as him. I scarcely want to use the word “upside”, because he already seems to be so far ahead of the curve in so many dimensions (well, except PK taking).

  8. Tommy Thompson wasn’t even mentioned. I think he is the most under-rated player in that squad. It probably has to do with Tab Ramos. He doesn’t know him, and I think he is more likely to choose players from his own culture I was underwhelmed by Zelalem. That may be because he seemed aloof, or should I say above it all?

    • I really agree about Thompson. Against Serbia he was covering more ground than anyone on the team and his movement off of the ball is far ahead of his teammates.

      The kid is also a baller. He subbed in to San Jose’s Cup match last night and was very active. He loves the game and will play wherever you ask him to.

      • Sometimes being a baller and a hustler, which Thompson definitely is, is a good way to hide a lack of skill and talent.

        Time will tell with Thompson.

      • Very true, but in Thompson’s case its not a matter of covering for a lack skill. He has great touch and plays well in tight spaces, plus he moves to right spaces and doesn’t run aimlessly. He has a very high soccer I.Q.

        IMHO, his weakness right now is that he can see the right pass or shot, but can’t quite make it happen. That’s coachable, but whether it happens in San Jose is the REAL question.

      • “he can see the right pass or shot, but can’t quite make it happen.”

        That is what I call a lack of skill.

      • OK. So by that standard no one on this team has much talent because none of them had the ability to make penetrating passes.

        At least Thompson gets into the right places and that’s more than the bulk of this group were capable of.

        I have a question for both of the critics. Did you watch any of the matches in the tournament? How about the qualifying tournament? Be honest, tell me which ones. Have you seen Thompson play in person? I bet not. I have said before that I wasn’t convinced about him until I saw him play against Atletico Madrid. Evidently their coaches commented on his ability. Based on their record, I trust them more than anyone who comments here.

      • MLS West Observer

        Hold on there.

        You are the one who said about Thompson:

        “he can see the right pass or shot, but can’t quite make it happen.”

        IF that is true, then it is a lack of skill. It is coachable but some players never will pick up on it.

        I never said he didn’t have any skill, you did

        What I said was running around with your hair on fire the whole game can sometimes obscure just exactly how skilled a player the kid is.

        I have not seen him as much as you, I have just seen him in this WC and the Qualifiers. And I would say he’s promising but there are many promising kids out there for whom this level is the best they will ever be.

        I’m not a top flight talent scout but I don’t know if he is the standout sure fire top pro prospect you seem certain that he is.

        Was that Madrid game an exhibition? If he goes on to play regularly for a team like Atletico Madrid I’ll be happy but, like I said, time will tell.

      • on Thompson, I’m a fan, agree with you, and criticizing someone’s hustle does not make any sense to me.

      • GW,

        “running around with your hair on fire the whole game can sometimes obscure just exactly how skilled a player the kid is.”

        Herein lies the problem with your thinking. He does not run around aimlessly. Rather he plays with his head up and his runs are into space. He opens the field the way that a smart attacking player should. That his teammates both with the U-20’s and the Earthquakes don’t recognize this is on them.

        How many other players on the U-20’s were capable of this? Rubin is as is Sonora (head down to often) is at times, but he’s not as good as Thompson. Everyone loves Arriola and I think that he’s a promising player, but unlike Thompson he plays with is head down and runs into cul de sacs far too often. Does he lack skill? No, but he needs coaching as do all of these players.

        Also, how many players on this team can see the penetrating pass that needs to be made? Hyndman sometimes, but not often enough. Zelelam was supposed to be able to, but I didn’t see it.

    • “…It probably has to do with Tab Ramos. He doesn’t know him, and I think he is more likely to choose players from his own culture…”

      Good job to show your ignorance by saying a coach (with latin heritage) is biased and only chooses other latin players. Maybe..just maybe he just thought there were other players that were a little better on the team. I have watched Tommy Thompson play a couple times. He has potential, but he IS NOT as good as Maki Tall or BJIV, so he was not going to start over them. Maybe in the future, not now.

      I mean, he put him on the team when there other players of “his culture” available. It goes both ways with other coaches who are not latin…

      • Thompson was ever present during qualifying and was one of the better players for us. I don’t think that Ramos has any sort of bias against him.

        What I do think may well have happened is that someone above his pay grade was pulling Tab’s strings a bit. Plus for some reason Tab views him a s forward when he’s never really been one. I’ve seen him play in person 5-6 times and he can slot in pretty much any midfield role. So you’re correct, as a forward he’s not as good as Tall or Jameson, but as midfielder they’re not as good as Thompson and its not even close.

        Thompson should have been playing in Sonora’s spot all along and would have done a better job.

    • Yes it was very bad. I knew he was going to miss before he shot…you could see it in his face. However, I definitely cut him a lot of slack. He’s only 17; he’s a defender…that’s a lot of pressure. I don’t know if I would have shot any better at that age in that environment. Other than the pk, he played fantastic…well above his years.

    • No they changed that rule a while back. Now only senior national team appearances can cap-tie. I think he is cap-tied at U-20 level but he could still play for the full England team in future at this point.

      • That’s too bad. England will probably come after him. After all, they didn’t qualify so they still got him some youth WC experience. Hope I’m wrong.

  9. The players that impressed me the most:
    Carter-Vickers (solid young defender, probably the best prospect in the bunch. Needs to get this guy cap-tied before England moves in)
    Miazga (tall, strong and athletic defender)
    Arriola (speed, power, shiftiness and an uncanny ability to win aerial balls despite his size)
    Rubin (prototypical poacher, always in the mix but tended to get frustrated with his teammates if not played the ball or the ball wasn’t to his liking)
    Hyndman (has all the tools to be the next Bradley, disappeared at times and his decision making in shooting and passing were suspect at times)
    Zelalem (Has the vision, the poise on the ball, all the tricks. Needs to rely on his left more and needs to bulk up. Being deployed on the outside was probably not the best position for him. Central/attacking mid is probably more his position.)
    Steffen (has all the skill to be a future #1 for the US)

    I would not be surprised to see all of these guys get called for the Olympic team and/or the Senior team. It would also not surprise me if 3 or 4 of them made it to Russia 2018.

    • Luke, I agree with all these points except for one. It seems that a lot of people got the impression from watching this tournament that Arriola is fast. I saw the opposite. In fact, to me it seemed to be his greatest downside. The guy has a tireless engine and an evident soccer IQ, but the whole time I watched him play I thought to myself, “Man, if only this guy had some wheels.” He reminded me of me in my youth (Frank Lampard that is)…

  10. CCV for me was the best player. All of those players on the list, outside of Zelalem, had very good tournaments. Steffen looks like a strong GK prospect, and I like Arriola’s aggression and willingness to take players on. I’d love to see Miazaga jump to a European club. He’s got great athleticism, but he is still a bit raw technically.

    I am a bit worried about CCV being snatched up by England… Wouldn’t be the first time we’d had a great CB prospect from our youth system snatched up from under our noses…

    • CCV was interview not too long ago and said something along the lines that he wants to represent USA because of his dad. sounds familiar?

  11. Based on the fact that Serbia had a much easier game against Mali than the US I had to vote Cameron Carter-Vickers. Miazga lost his head (again) for a moment and was carded. That kid get bigger, better and he will be one of the best in the world and the English are going to beg him to jump ship.

    • Don’t condescend Miazga with your passive-aggressive way of saying he lost his cool. The guy is a teenager and isn’t going to play like he’s been there before because he hasn’t. Either way, everyone’s opinion here is just that, and holds no credibility so as I digress, I realize it’s fruitless to even express thoughts.

    • Moe Betta is right that Miazga has lost his cool a few times playing for RBNY, getting sent off once last year and once this year. He’ll learn though.

      • he has looked shaky for NYRB a few times, i didn’t think too highly of him prior to the tournament but he was excellent in NZ. give him time should be a great cb as he matures.. is the plan to keep him on the 1st team or does he play of NYRBII?

  12. For all the games, I would say Miazga. With him, they were pretty solid defensively. Without him, give up 3 goals to Ukraine. I would then say:

    In the game we needed him, Hyndman wasn’t able to make a difference (v Columbia and v Serbia).

    I wonder how we would have played if we hadn’t lost R.Canouse, M.Tall and B.Jamieson before/during the tournament. Offensively, we were pretty weak.

    • Good point on Miagza, I think we gave up one goal the entire tournament when he was on the field and that was in the first 10 minutes.

      Canouse was a huge loss, Delgado just turned the ball over and destroyed our rhythm far too often. I feel like Hyndman ended up playing deeper in deeper during the tournament, out of fear Delgado would turn the ball over in a bad spot.

    • ^agree with this. I was really impressed with Arriola because in addition to his abilities he seemed to be mentally very tough.

  13. Easily a three-horse race between Miazga, Carter-Vickers, and Steffen. I tend to favor the importance of defenders over a goalkeeper, so I guess its really only a two-horse race.

    • 100% agree. And I also think this is REALLY great news. Attacking prospects come and go, but a solid spine that can give us a decade+ of reliability at the back is worth its weight in gold.

  14. To me, it’s Hyndman. He was like a mini-Bradley out there. No, he wasn’t perfect, and certainly disappeared for some stretches, but he’s still a kid. Steffen obviously stood out in the Serbia game, that was some crazy goaltending during the PK shoot out. My third place would go to Miazga. I was very impressed with his decision making in the back.

      • Haha, well I’ve been called worse. I get that I will be in the minority on this one. Let’s just say it’s an “aspirational” vote. I think he’s got a high soccer IQ and is going places.

      • I agree Hyndman is going places. Lets just say that if Hyndman was the best player for the U.S. in the tournament, then I think the team would still be playing right now.

        With Hyndman and Zelalem not able to do enough towards the end of the tournament, the U.S. lost the midfield battle, and that’s why we lost to Serbia. Our defense kept us in the Colombia and Serbia games.

      • For sure, both of them had a weak game against Serbia. I think they have the highest ceiling of the group (and we all know what that means for 18 year olds…). They just didn’t show it consistently throughout the tournament.

      • Good point Bruin. I will have your back this time bc people like to pounce on you here! lol
        I have mentioned that I coached a good number of these kids. Stephan was the MVP but we also put him in the best position to be MVP.Wish I could say the same for Rubio.
        Emmerson’s problem is that he does not naturally cover a lot of ground and for this reason he doesn’t get the ball enough. The ball needs to move really fast, simple and early for him to take over a midfield. That didn’t happen all that much.
        Rubio was left on an island and never got the chance to shine. The kid is a gem both as a player and as a person

      • Now since you’ve mentioned it, could you be a little more specific as to who coached, at what club, and when?

      • Mr. Euro…coached pretty much all of them except for Tall, GZ, and a few others on the youth national team.
        Great kids, all of them.

      • Thanks Sepp. I will now support your decision if you change your mind and decide to run for Fifa President again.

      • Don’t forget that Delgado who played the #6 role had an atrocious tournament especially against Serbia. If we had someone who was a bit more tidy and could consistently complete a pass, that would have elevated the play of the other midfielders.

      • As soon as Canouse was ruled out, things became sticky. I think that word had come from on high (i.e.: Herr Klinsmann) that Zelalem was going to not just play but start and that the team was going to mimic the senior teams tactics. The only real option other than the inadequate Delgado was to move Acosta to the #6 spot but that would have meant relying on either Requejo or Moore and neither of these players showed the ability to provide with AND cover defensively which is a requirement of narrow diamond fullbacks.

        I really think that are more players in this group who will go on to contribute to the senior team than any U-20 side has had in the recent past. We didn’t see the best from many of them because they were hamstrung by tactics and being payed in roles that didn’t suit them. Hyndman to me seems like a primes example of this.

      • Even if Zelalem didn’t play, you still can’t play Hyndman without a more robust player next to him. It came down to Zelalem starting or Sonora, and IMO Zelalem had a much better chance of finding a piece of magic.

      • Very much agreed regarding Hyndman and Zelelam not working well as central combo. I think that the best bet would have been to go with Acosta next to Hyndman and play a conventional 4-4-2 and take the pressure off of the fullbacks. With that tactic Moore looked less vulnerable.

Leave a Comment