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Aaronson, Sullivan headline USMNT U-20 players named to Concacaf Best XI


The U.S. Under-20 men’s national team not only picked up its first trophy since 2018 on Sunday night, but also saw four players chosen in the Concacaf U-20 Championship Best XI.

Golden Boot winner Paxten Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan, Jalen Neal, and Chris Brady were all named to the tournament’s Best XI on Monday, following the Americans 6-0 finals victory over the Dominican Republic. Mexico, Dominican Republic, and hosts Honduras all had two players chosen in the honor, while Guatemala had one representative.

Aaronson led the tournament with seven goals scored and also was named the Golden Ball winner, which is given to the best overall player. The Philadelphia Union midfielder was chosen alongside his club teammate Quinn Sullivan, who netted six goals and finished second in the Golden Boot race.

Brady started in six of the USMNT U-20’s seven matches, helping the Americans post six shutouts while also winning the tournament’s Golden Glove award. The Chicago Fire goalkeeper only conceded two goals in his six appearances.

Neal started in five matches for Mikey Varas’ squad, scoring once in a 5-0 Round of 16 victory over Nicaragua. The L.A. Galaxy defender has only made one appearance for the MLS club to date, mainly featuring for Galaxy II in the USL.

Here’s a closer look at the full Best XI:

Concacaf Nations League Best XI

Goalkeeper: Chris Brady (United States)

Defenders: Jalen Neal (United States), Aaron Zuniga (Honduras), Antonio Leone (Mexico)

Midfielders: Edison Azcona (Dominican Republic), Arquímides Ordonez (Guatemala), Paxten Aaronson (United States), Quinn Sullivan (United States)

Forwards: Marco Aceituno (Honduras), Esteban Lozano (Mexico), Angel Montes De Oca (Dominican Republic)


  1. It’s nice to have success at the youth levels, but the goal is to have success at the Sr. International Level. So while I’m happy to see that we’ve qualified for the U-20 WC and the Olympics, it’s far more important that these kids continue their development at their clubs. Most of the roster that qualified for the U-20 WC will likely be able to attend the WC Next year, because they’ll probably still be in MLS.
    By the time the Olympics rolls around in 2 years it may be 50/50 that they’ll be in MLS or will be released by their clubs.
    Those thinking that we’ll be able to field a “Dream Team” at the Olympics containing all of all our best age eligible players are going to be disappointed. Euro clubs are reluctant to release players who feature for their 1st teams for youth tournaments. The few exceptions have been 1) A player has it in their contract, 2) a player isn’t in the clubs current plans (shop window), 3) They’re returning from an injury and the club wants them to get games.
    Therefore I doubt we’ll see guys like Pepi, Scally, Gomez, or any of the other “A” listers suiting up for the Olympics. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    • I think what might be a problem for the MLS based players is their roles may expand by next season. I think Ernie Stewart still having ties at Philly Union and even Berhalter was at 1860 when Ernst Tanner was the Academy director helps with those releases. But one never knows Miles Robinson got hurt in a recovery session for the NT and suddenly ATL blocks every youth call up now so you can’t even count on MLS teams anymore. The timing in May and June generally helps with a lot of teams though. I do think it’s about 75% Paxten is in Europe in January.

      • Many of the MLS teams have realized the benefit of showcasing their young talent. While they may not be willing to release a player for a qualification tournament, they may be willing to release them for the actual youth WC knowing that if the player performs well they could see a nice offer from someone in Europe. Dallas & Philly have both seen nice return on investment the last couple years selling their young players.
        Not saying MLS clubs will always release players, just that the possibility of getting the MLS based guys is greater than getting Euro based players.
        Atlanta has always been more strict about releasing players for National Team call-ups, even before Robinson’s injury. I don’t know if it’s the Owner or if it’s Boca….but even when required to release players they tend to hold to the letter of what’s required regardless of what the club’s schedule is like.

  2. I think Paxton will move in January, but with the fall WC I’m not sure what that window will look like. If it’s a bigger club he could be loaned back but that club would still control if he’s allowed to play. It really depends on the club some are ok with releasing players to U20s others don’t want to risk it.

  3. Luna also had a great tournament, his control and passing to setup teammates was nothing short of fantastic.

    • Kind of faded as the tournament went on whether that was fatigue from the insane schedule or tougher competition I’m not sure. Intrigued to see how he does at RSL. Pablo seems to put an emphasis on defense so I’m interested to see how much Diego gets on the field under Mastroeni. Really missing Luna, Gallegos, and JGomez in USL this year, need to find a new crop of youngsters to follow.

  4. I think that Paxton will stay with the Union another year. He is not an everyday starter for the Union, I think he will be in a year and is likely to leave either in the summer or end of ’23, after the U-20 WC. At that time he will have many more options than now. Now he is still a very good young player who still has to prove he can excel against grown men.
    Of course, a big European club could take a flier and try to tie him up with an early contract when he is still relatively cheap. That could mean a deal like Caden Clark’s wherein he is immediately loaned back to the MLS.

    • Brenden is 100% not being released for the Olympics. (Unless he bombs at Leeds and is so out of rotation they’re trying to move him next summer)

      • If Leeds gets relegated, then his status will be up in the air. If things go badly for him at Leeds, the Olympics would give him a chance to showcase his talents.
        I don’t either of those to happen, but the chance that both Brendon and Paxton will play in the Olympics is not zero.

      • Denis, maybe I overestimated but it’s 98% not going to happen. Regular starters in Europe just aren’t released for the Olympics. For it to happen the next two years have to go very badly for Brenden. People have this idea that all these young Americans that are NT first teamers who will be age eligible will be in the Olympics is just not going to happen.

  5. I’m fairly convinced P.Aaronson will not play in the U20 WC because his future European club won’t release him.


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