Top Stories

Projecting the USMNT U-20 roster for FIFA U-20 World Cup


We are less than three weeks away from the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina where the U.S. Under-20 men’s national team will take the field for its second competitive tournament under head coach Mikey Varas.

Varas led the USMNT U-20’s to the Concacaf U-20 Championship title in 2022, an achievement that clinched a spot in the World Cup and the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. The USMNT U-20’s have been paired with Ecuador, Slovakia, and Fiji in Group B at the upcoming competition.

Many of the familiar faces from the Americans’ success in Honduras should be back as the USMNT U-20’s aim to build off of three-straight World Cup quarterfinal appearances. Paxten Aaronson and Quinn Sullivan were two of the standout stars for the Americans, and will be two of the key leaders that Varas can rely on in Argentina.

Kevin Paredes and Jonathan Gomez are two European-based players that have enjoyed positive runs with their respective clubs and should be high in consideration to make the final roster.

Chelsea U-21 goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina just recently concluded his Premier League 2 campaign with the Young Blues and could earn the No. 1 job with Chris Brady set to stay with the Chicago Fire. Antonio Carrera and Alex Borto will also be fighting to wear the No. 1 shirt in Argentina after continued development with their clubs.

Here is the 23-player roster we could see Varas call up for the upcoming FIFA U-20 World Cup

Projected USMNT U-20 World Cup Roster


John Dorton/ISI Photos

Gabriel Slonina, Antonio Carrera, Alex Borto

Chicago Fire head coach Ezra Hendrickson has already confirmed Chris Brady’s exclusion from the USMNT U-20 roster, making the goalkeeper group an easier decision for Varas.

Gabriel Slonina has just recently concluded his first season with Chelsea’s Under-21 side, where he made eight starts for the Young Blues. Slonina, 18, registered three clean sheets in 720 minutes of action, while delivering strong performances against Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United.

Slonina featured in three USMNT U-20 friendlies during the March window and should get the nod for the No. 1 job.

Antonio Carrera has continued to develop with North Texas SC in MLS NEXT Pro, featuring in four matches so far in 2023. The 19-year-old has conceded just five goals for the Western Conference club, while earning one clean sheet to date.

Carrera did feature once in the USMNT U-20’s title-winning run at the Concacaf U-20 Championship, but will likely go as the No. 2 keeper behind Slonina.

Alex Borto has also featured in the Premier League 2 Division this season, making nine appearances to date for Fulham’s U-21 side. The 19-year-old has benefitted from Brady’s absence from the roster and could fight with Carrera for the No. 2 spot.

Missed the Cut: Emi Ochoa, Gavin Beavers.


John Dorton/ISI Photos

Jalen Neal, Brandan Craig, Josh Wynder, Jonathan Gomez, Caleb Wiley, Mauricio Cuevas, Michael Halliday

Varas has plenty of familiarity with his defensive options heading into the World Cup and will rely on many to help lead the Americans to a successful tournament run.

Centerbacks Jalen Neal and Brandan Craig both featured heavily at the Concacaf U-20 Championship and remain top prospects for their respective clubs. Neal has continued to play a first team role in 2023 with the LA Galaxy, recently scoring his first senior goal earlier this spring.

Craig’s long-team future remains bright with the Philadelphia Union despite three experienced center backs currently in front of him. Craig has featured regularly for Union II in MLS NEXT Pro, bringing a strong defensive presence and good technical ability in the final third on set pieces.

Josh Wynder is reportedly set to make his move to Europe this summer, but first the recently turned 18-year-old could play a key role in the USMNT U-20 backline. The Louisville City FC defender earned his first senior call-up in April and could be a prospect to watch ahead of the 2026 FIFA World Cup on home soil.

Mauricio Cuevas only recently just returned to the U.S. after signing back with the LA Galaxy after a short stint in Belgium with Club Brugge. Cuevas captained the USMNT U-20’s regularly through the Concacaf U-20 Championship and would be the expected starter at right back.

Orlando City’s Michael Halliday has enjoyed a growing role at club level and deserves another opportunity to jostle with Cuevas for minutes at right back. Halliday made six appearances at the Concacaf U-20 Championship and has carried that production over to MLS this season.

18-year-old Caleb Wiley warrants an inclusion after a stellar start to the 2023 MLS season with Atlanta United. Wiley has featured as a left back and left winger in Gonzalo Pineda’s set up, but likely will drop back into his natural role in the squad.

Wiley did confirm his release from Atlanta United on Thursday to feature in the competition.

Real Sociedad’s Jonathan Gomez would also be an option at left back following his continued growth in Spain. The former Louisville City FC fullback has logged over 2,000 minutes with Real Sociedad’s B team this season, scoring one goal and taking the first major step in his European career.

Missed the Cut: Justin Che, Markus Ferkranus, Kobi Henry, Alex Freeman.


Oscar Barroso/ISI Photos

Jack McGlynn, Obed Vargas, Caden Clark, Daniel Edelman, Owen Wolff

The USMNT U-20’s midfielders are a growing group of talents with Jack McGlynn playing the leading role for Varas’ squad.

McGlynn has remained a consistent performer for Jim Curtin’s Union squad this season, playing important minutes in the recent Concacaf Champions League semifinal run. His dangerous left foot always makes him a threat on free kicks while his smooth passing and clever runs also will help him run the show in midfield.

Caden Clark might have not tons of minutes with RB Leipzig this season, but he remains a talented midfielder who has experience in this squad. A strong tournament could set Clark up nicely for a potential loan spell away from Leipzig this summer, or an increased role with the Bundesliga club.

Owen Wolff has been one of Austin FC’s few bright spots in 2023, totaling one goal in 10 appearances under his father’s tutelage. Wolff’s versatility could lead to him being used in a number of different roles, whether that be in the middle or out wide.

Obed Vargas and Daniel Edelman are two fellow MLS players who are continuing to reap the reward of early opportunities. Vargas was part of the Concacaf U-20 Championship roster before an injury forced him to withdraw. However, he has remained with Brian Schmetzer’s first team in Seattle this season.

Edelman scored his first MLS goal in 2022 and is on pace to surpass his playing time this season for Gerhard Struber. Edelman’s range and strong work ethic could help him earn a starting spot ahead of the group stage schedule.

Rokas Pukstas was originally on this roster projection, but Hajduk Split has already announced he will not be released for international duty. Hajduk Split sits second in the Croatian first division and also has a cup final against Sibenik on May 24.

Missed the Cut: Nicholas Pariano, Alejandro Alvarado, Caden Clark, Danny Leyva, Niko Tsakiris, Noel Buck.


Michael Janosz/ISI Photos

Paxten Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan, Cade Cowell, Kevin Paredes, Diego Luna, Darren Yapi

The most exciting group within the USMNT U-20 squad will be the forwards group as Varas has plenty of ways he could go with his list of attackers.

Paxten Aaronson and Quinn Sullivan both excelled at the Concacaf U-20 Championship and both will be key figures in the World Cup squad. Aaronson is slowly earning minutes in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt, but learning at an early age in one of Europe’s top leagues.

Sullivan is one of Curtin’s early go-to options off the bench with the Union thanks to his hard work and pressure on defenders. He can play the No. 9 in the USMNT U-20 squad, but likely will be best suited for a wing position to use his pace to his advantage.

Cowell is another candidate to lead the line, something he hasn’t done often with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2023 due to Jeremy Ebobisse’s presence out west. San Jose also has yet to decide on whether or not Cowell will be released, but if he is, he will have a point to prove after recent USMNT senior call-ups this year.

Darren Yapi is an intriguing prospect, who could also be in the mix to earn the No. 9 job. Yapi scored six goals for Colorado Rapids 2 in MLS NEXT Pro last season before jumping back to the first team in 2023 as a rotational player in Robin Fraser’s squad.

Yapi brings a good mixture of physicality and speed to the Rapids squad and could pose problems for opposing defenders in Argentina.

Kevin Paredes is another name that would be a great inclusion in the USMNT U-20 roster, pending Wolfsburg allows him to miss the final matches of the Bundesliga season. Paredes enjoyed a growing role in Niko Kovac’s squad over the winter and spring, scoring one goal and adding three assists.

He has been sidelined since April 17 through injury, with no official announcement made yet on his return to action.

Diego Luna is one of the more experienced names in the U-20 pool, earning 17 caps to date and being a regular during the Concacaf U-20 Championship run. Luna has made five senior appearances for Real Salt Lake this season before scoring two goals for MLS NEXT Pro affiliate Real Monarchs last weekend.

Luna’s aggressive attacking style makes him a threat no matter what position he is put in on the field.

Missed the Cut: Tyler Wolff, Jackson Hopkins, Korede Osundina, Roald Mitchell.

What do you think of this group? Who made the cut that you were happy to see included? Who missed out that you feel should have made the team?

Share your thoughts below.


      • Yeah at this rate it won’t surprise me if Yappi and Cowell aren’t released. Paredes is still injured so I could see Wolfsburg saying no as well.

      • Varas might have to start plucking players from the u19 squad: Neri, Zambrano, Fletcher etc…..

    • Aaronson also an interesting one with Frankfurt in the Pokal final. Pax went 45 minutes today.Frankfurt can’t make Euro comps nor be relegated but the a Pokal win would be huge for them and get them back in Europa League.

      • Yep. I see that Aaronson has been steadily getting more minutes. Must be a sign he is doing a lot of things right in training and in these games he has been getting minutes in.

  1. There’s 21 names in bold. Is it a 23 person roster? If so an Extra CB and midfielder to be added perhaps.
    4-3-3 starters
    Pax, Keyrol, KP
    Clark, Buck, Alvarado
    Wiley, Neal, Craig, Cuevas
    Cowell (if released), Yapi, Sullivan
    Luna, Vargas, McGlynn
    Gomez, Wynder, Che, Holliday
    3rd GK- Borto
    If KP isn’t released or isn’t healthy, I’d call in Jack De Vries as a backup to all 3 front spots and start Cowell at LW, and Pax at RW.
    If KP & Cowell aren’t released, then Owen Wolff is in for me.
    If Che, isn’t healthy or released, I’d call in Jonathan Tomkinson (I think, age-eligible but I can be wrong). FYI —Scally missed the age cut by 2 days.

    • Both DeVries and Thomkinson are too old both born 2002. Varas made a comment that Cremansci that they saw him as more for next cycle. If they had Ben at 18 as too young I don’t see them calling in Figueroa at 16.

      • Yeah I’m not a big fan of this line of thinking from coaches. Many other countries routinely have 16, 17 year olds in their u20 teams. I think Cremanschi could definitely be in this cycle. Figueroa could defintlely play in this u20 team with the dearth of number 9’s. But I also think Mikey Varas hasn’t done a good job with integrating players/#9,s who have been at European academies i.e. Damian Downs (who just signed a first team contract with FC Koln) and Malick Sanogo at Union Berlin. Both are considered top prospects for their respective club teams. I think he knew they wouldn’t be released for the Concacaf u20 tournament because most European youth teams don’t need to release for those tournaments. Instead he focused more on domestic players. Both of those guys could be regular first team players for their clubs in the next couple of years. Which would be awesome to see for the USMNT. Downs only has 1 cap for the U20’s and Sanogo only has been in two camps.

      • Not sure on Downs hadn’t heard anything about him until recently. Sonogo has been with a couple different age groups and never seems preferred by the coaches after he attends camp, I’ve heard a couple different YNT pundits that aren’t overally impressed with him either. Maybe he just fits his clubs system or maybe he’s doing well because he’s an early developer? Perhaps he just doesn’t perform well after the long travel to US. It can be deceptive to see big numbers in Junior Bundesliga because it’s regional you get Bundesliga academies playing a lot of 3rd and 4th Div academies.
        The comments about Cremansci were before he began playing regularly for Inter this year so those thoughts may have changed.

      • I know Sanogo struggled last season with the Union Berlin u19’s as a 16/17 year old when he was called into US U20 camps. But this season he has had a good year. He is still considered a potential top prospect in the Union Berlin academy. Downs attended one U20 camp and seemed primed for more callups . I heard Koln denied him going to the CONCACAF u 20 tournament. Could be the reason Varas hasn’t called him back into the team. But all indications point to Koln being pretty high on him.

  2. I hope they call in Keyrol Figueroa! Have him play in the U20 & U17 WC in the same year like Sargent did in ‘17. I’d feel much better if Keyrol starts & Yapi backs him up. (Players born in ‘06-‘07 might be good enough to get minutes for clubs in the future to give them playing time. Where they won’t be released for the next U20 Concacaf or WC tournament.) This would also allow Pax to be used like a Queen piece on a chess board. I think Noel Buck is an 8, just like Obed but at this level, I’d like to see him at the 6 over Edelman. If Obed can play the 6 so can Buck. Alvarado JR being on the cut list is a tragedy. If it’s a 4-3-3, Pax, Keyrol, KP (if healthy & released),
    Clark, Buck, double A, in the middle,
    with a Wiley, Neal, Craig, Cuevas backline.

  3. Looks like Hajduk Split isn’t going to release Pukstas.

    Opens the door for maybe a Noel Buck, Caden Clark or Bajarktevic or Tsakiris or maybe Cremansci. Still don’t know if San Jose is going to release Cowell.

    Any U20 player not called up should be in consideration for the Gold Cup. Gutierrez, Pukstas, Brady, etc…

    • Tsakiris has been listed as injured all season. Not surprised about Pukstas but seems silly when they can’t move up or down in the standings and the cup final is against the last place team in their league. If Vargas and Edelman are on the roster I’d expect Clark but no guarantees he’s released either.

    • Argentina already named their roster so Cremansci is available for the US. I like his upside more than Buck or Esmir so if we lose any other MF, he’d get my vote just because I’d rather keep him happy with the US.

      • I think both Buck and Cremanschi have big upside. Cremanschi is a bit more of an attacking 8. Where as Buck is more box to box.

  4. Two lock down CB’s with Neal and Wynder, a talented GK in Slonina, and an Obed Vargas at the six could take this team pretty far. Attack wise I think it looks pretty good too. They need a 9 though. What was missing against France and England last camp was a goal scorer. They created a lot of attacking thrust, against both France and England, but wasted many chances in the final third.


Leave a Comment