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Mikey Varas on Paxten Aaronson U-20 absence: “It wasn’t able to be”


The U.S. Under-20 men’s national team will have plenty of talent to call on at the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina, but one key attacker’s presence will be sorely missed.

Paxten Aaronson was not included in Mikey Varas’ 21-player final roster on Wednesday after the midfielder was not released by his club Eintracht Frankfurt. Aaronson has continued to earn first team minutes in the German Bundesliga this season, earning early trust from manager Oliver Glasner during a busy part of the league campaign.

With Eintracht Frankfurt still fighting for a top-six finish and set to face RB Leipzig in the German Cup Final this June, Aaronson was retained by the German club ahead of an important string of final matches.

“We had ongoing discussions with Frankfurt, but not only with them, but with every club both in MLS and internationally,” Varas said. “We tried to find the best solutions to cooperate, unfortunately for us and for Paxten it wasn’t able to be. But at the same time, we’re really proud that Paxten has become an important part of Frankfurt’s team that they don’t feel like they can release him.”

Aaronson was influential in the USMNT U-20’s clinching their berth to the World Cup, scoring seven goals en route to winning the Concacaf U-20 Championship’s Golden Boot and Ball awards respectively. The former Philadelphia Union homegrown has brought key versatility to the USMNT U-20 squad, featuring as an attacking midfielder, winger, and even as a false No. 9 at times on international duty.

His absence in the squad will certainly force others to step up in Argentina, especially if the Americans want to advance out of Group B. Rokas Pukstas and Kevin Paredes have enjoyed positive European seasons in Croatia and Germany respectively, but they will not join up with the squad until after the group stage due to their growing roles at club level.

Quinn Sullivan and Cade Cowell are two likely candidates to replace Aaronson’s productivity in the squad while 18-year-old Darren Yapi was also included in the final roster despite only making his U-20 debut in March.

The USMNT U-20’s will need to be ready to hit the ground running, especially with a tough Matchday 1 showdown against Ecuador vastly approaching.

“What separates this group is the culture, the people that we have in the room, who they are in terms of being good people, have growth mindsets, and loving to compete under pressure is something that we’re going to galvanize around,” Varas said. “I would say the biggest challenge is clearly how the group handles the pressure of playing a World Cup. It’s natural that there’s going to be nerves and how we handle that as a group collectively will be really important.”


  1. Interesting Kobi Henry hasn’t been called up. Wonder if Reims 2 said no or he wasn’t even considered. People forgetting that Henry was the biggest transfer out of USL until Wynder.

  2. it rings insincere both ends. i’d be surprised if EF used an 18 year old kid attacker with no first team production as a cup final sub, they have used him 3′ in cup games and not at all in the semi. but we may have done a gentleman’s agreement to get him in camp cupcake with the seniors that then when they make this final costs us him at U20 worlds. i doubt it helps that our GM situation is in flux and we might err on the side of being generous.

    if you wanted to be punchy you could use our gold cup release rights as leverage. you wanna refuse U20 so he can sit the cup final bench? fine, he plays gold cup. we will compromise for U20 if your reasonableness has returned.

    • I think you’re reading too much into it. Frankfurt had said when they bought him they were planning on bringing Paxton along slowly and didn’t plan on using him until next season. He was just coming off MLS season and U20 qualifying. That’s why they released him for Jan. camp. Paxton does well in training, earns some minutes that have been building the last month. Frankfurt need a miracle to qualify for the Conference League at this point so their only option for European football next season is winning the Pokal. They need to keep all their options open to help them qualify for the Europa League and that means keeping Paxton. It’s far better than Schalke not releasing Wes, Haji, and Nick Tatigue to try to win the U19 Bundesliga Playoffs 2017. I’m sure they could have put him on the roster but he wouldn’t be available until the semis and with already a smaller roster that’s a gamble.

    • The point of the U-20 World Cup is development of the players, not whether we field the very very best players at this very moment.

      Would PA do great there and thus help the team? Probably.

      But everyone already knows that.

      How about they give some other kid who may not be a golden child, a chance to make their mark?

      It’s more relevant if PA actually does well in his remaining chances with Eintracht. He’s doing better than expected now. If he continues to do well in his remaining time, that could give him a boost for next season when he can continue his assault on first team status.

      He’s not like Timo Weah, who was looking for a showcase so he could get a move. Timo signed for Lille right after the 2019 U20 World Cup.

      Paxton is already at a BL club where it looks like he has a good chance to move into the first team. He does not need a move. He doesn’t need to play in the U20 World Cup. He needs more time with his club.

      In other words, further participation by Paxton with the U20’s is not doing him any good. He’s grown past that now.

      Which is the whole point of the U-20 program.

      • Yes and no. If this was Concacaf I’d agree completely. However, playing in an international tournament in a soccer special country like Argentina would be different from Paxton’s prior experiences. Paxton missed out on the U17 WC that was cancelled due to Covid. Not to mention making a run to the semis or final could give the group a boost going forward to the full NT level like Beas and Landon’s 1999 run at the U17 WC gave them confidence in 2002.

      • JR,
        Argentina would be nice but it’s not enough to make it worth Paxton’s time. Advancement to his first team should be his only overwhelming burning goal. Nothing else. I’m pretty sure his competition at Eintracht is that kind of focused.

        “Not to mention making a run to the semis or final could give the group a boost going forward to the full NT level like Beas and Landon’s 1999 run at the U17 WC gave them confidence in 2002.”

        The group doesn’t matter. Most of them won’t matter for 2026. Beas and Landon were the only two of note from their group. It’s about weeding out individuals. This is brutal, cutthroat stuff. Who wants it that bad? This isn’t Reyna soccermom participation trophy crap anymore.

        This is dog eat dog.. Clint was selfish. That’s why he made it.

      • V: the only thing wrong with your logic is that Paxton can’t earn a spot on his first team squad because there is no such thing. Whether he plays or not the next few weeks are meaningless because he will have to earn his spot again in late July and August (unless you’re Timmy Chandler then you just automatically get paid to hold down the seats on the bench). If Frankfurt had released him he should have come but they didn’t so I hope he scores the game winner in the Pokal and Diego Luna wins the Golden Boot.

      • JR,

        “Paxton can’t earn a spot on his first team squad because there is no such thing. Whether he plays or not the next few weeks are meaningless”

        I disagree slightly. I mean one reason I’m glad Paxton isn’t there is it gives more chances for Luna who I really want to see more of.

        It’s a mindset like anything else. Clint never took his first team spot for granted. So in his mind he was always trying to win his job. always striving for a higher standard. Unlike Landon, he never coasted.

        After his first half season acclimating, Clint averaged about 42 appearances per season for the rest of his time in the EPL ( excluding his loan back to Fulham from Seattle that he took so he could be ready for the World Cup in Brazil later on). That’s about what the other important regulars like Murphy and Hangeland averaged as well.

        If Paxton goes back to the U20’s he’ll be a rock star in that locker room. Good for his ego but maybe it makes him soft. He’ll be like the big college freshman coming home and stealing the senior boys’ girl friends.

        With Eintracht he’ll be just another good prospect fighting for his life and trying to steal money from the other players who may have to face a bleak future if they fail at Eintracht and let Paxton beat them out..

        I’m tired of country club American players who don’t understand that they have to fight for every single minute of playing time 24/7/ 365 on and off the field.

        This maybe makes for mentally unhealthy human beings but makes better players.

        None of the young guys at Qatar were as intense as Clint or for that matter the other Clint, Cletus Mathis.

        The USMNT needs better , more intense players and a lot more of them.

  3. Going to be tough winning the group without Paredes, Pukstas, and Cowell (suspended for first match). That being keeping it close against Slovakia and Ecuador and blowing out Fiji should be enough to qualify for knockouts.

    • Forgot Cowell was suspended for the first game. Going to be rough against Ecuador. Probably see Wiley at wing in that game.

      Or a formation switch to a 3-5-2 with Sullivan and Yappi at forward.



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