After sealing the title of CONCACAF champions, U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team is bound for South Korea and the Under-20 World Cup. On Wednesday, their road through that World Cup became a bit clearer as they learned their group opponents.
In Wednesday’s World Cup draw, the U.S. was paired with Ecuador, Senegal and Saudi Arabia in Group F of this summer’s tournament. The U.S. will open play on May 22 before facing Senegal and Saudi Arabia on May 25 and 28, respectively.
“We are proud to have earned a group top seed for the 2017 U-20 World Cup,” U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team head coach Tab Ramos said. “As CONCACAF Champions and 2015 U-20 World Cup Quarterfinalists, we have put ourselves in a great position for this tournament.
“Our Youth National Team Program has been on an upward trend and we need to continue to push forward in Korea Republic. This was a difficult draw, but we are ready for the challenge. Our plan is to treat each game like a final, so our preparation now shifts to Ecuador.”
Ecuador is a part of the U-20 World Cup field for the first time since 2011, which saw the team reach the Round of 16. In total, Ecuador has posted a 2-4-2 record in their two prior appearances.
Senegal enters their second-straight U-20 World Cup after reaching the semifinal last time out. The African nation defeated Ukraine in penalty kicks to reach the quarterfinals before earning a 1-0 win over Uzbekistan to reach the final four. Their journey ended there, though, as Senegal fell to eventual runners-up Brazil.
Saudi Arabia joins the competition for the eighth time, although it’s the nations first appearance since the 2011 tournament. The team’s best finish came that year: a Round of 16 run that ended with a loss to Brazil. In total, Saudi Arabia has posted a 4-12-6 overall record across 22 matches played.
The U-20 World Cup runs May 20-June 11 and features 24 countries. The top two teams in each group will be joined by the four best third-place teams in advancing past the group stage and into the Round of 16.
Here’s a closer look at the U.S. schedule as well as the rest of the U-20 World Cup groupings:
U.S. U-20 Group F Schedule:
May 22, 4 a.m.: Ecuador vs. U.S.; Incheon Stadium, Incheon
May 25, 7 a.m.: Senegal vs. U.S.; Incheon Stadium, Incheon
May 28, 5 a.m.: U.S. vs. Saudi Arabia; Daejeon World Cup Stadium, Daejeon
2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup
Group A: Korea Republic (host), Guinea, Argentina, England
Group B: Venezuela, Germany, Vanuatu, Mexico
Group C: Zambia, Portugal, Iran, Costa Rica
Group D: South Africa, Japan, Italy, Uruguay
Group E: France, Honduras, Vietnam, New Zealand
Group F: Ecuador, U.S., Saudi Arabia, Senegal
Ecuador will play similar to Panama and Honduras of which we struggled…speed and toughness…we started slow the u-20 qualifiers so this group is a toss up…Senegal we’ve seen what they can do and we struggle with that style too
U20s need to pack their Capri sun and orange wedges. It will be unbearably hot and dripping humid in S. Korea during May (and it gets progressively worse into summer). U20s from cooler climates will need to adjust big time.
Let’s face facts. These are kids. There’s just little telling how they will react. This is definitely not our 2013 buzz saw of a group but it shouldn’t be looked past either. Saudi should be winnable. Senegal and Ecuador will be tough matches that could go either way. And all I’m going on is the fairly consistent production of talent from West Africa and South America and comparing that to what I know of our player pool.
There might be one or two (being generous, I’d wager) people reading and commenting on US soccer websites that could list 5 names off the top of their heads that should be competing for any of the three other teams in our group. To think of it as a cake walk is foolish.
I hope that Tab and the team give these teams the proper respect and don’t look past anyone. Can’t afford to sleepwalk thru the any of these.
Many of our players are no longer kids any more. I remember the days when we just had college kids to choose from. Now we have real professionals on this team and, if available, players from some notable European teams. You are correct that this will be no cake walk, but at least the US has more good players than in the past and our national output of young players is definitely on the upswing.
I’d agree that we are better equipped to compete at this level…..or at least that we should be, given the player pool (on paper). And, I’m not being a naysayer here. Far from it. I’m optimistic actually. Just would caution those who think we should have no problem with this group. We should have problems with this group. It will have it’s difficulties IMHO.
If Tab has access to all of the eligible players (minus Pulisic, of course), the squad should be fairly strong, especially defensively. Advancement from the group stage should always be an expectation at this point, with a deep run into the knockout round (depending on matchups and luck and the form of players 20 and under).
That being said, Senegal, Ecuador, and Saudi Arabia all finished 2nd overall in the various championships that got them in this tourney. How much does that mean? Who knows in youth setups, considering who was available to each (and their opponents) then and who will be available when the U20 World Cup rolls around. But I hope no one is expecting a stroll in the park; Ukraine waxed a strong U.S. U20 squad last go round, and we also struggled against Myanmar.
Just on name recognition but Korea got screwed.
It is always hard to know how youth teams with be but from the past few youth WCs those African teams were always impressive so Senegal concerns me a little. SA should be weak and Ecuador is most likely a challenge.
That has to be 9 points, right?