Young American players are on a mission starting Monday February 18th : qualify for the Under 20 World Cup in Turkey this coming summer.
Standing between head coach Tab Ramos and his troops is a tricky CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament- a region which features no easy games for any side. This is the U20s first attempt to erase bitter memories of the program’s failure two years ago to qualify in Columbia, and provide an injection of optimism for its youth setup.
“We are very excited to begin our final preparation for World Cup qualifying,” Ramos said in a conference call last week. “We’ve had eight camps already and we feel good about the group that we’ve selected.”
Head Coach Ramos, the former U.S. international and arguably one of the best players ever to don the national team jersey, is in charge of qualifying. He was selected for the position after Thomas Rongen was released in 2011. Under Ramos' watch, the team’s form has been spotty at best, though if Ramos is able to lead this group to a spot in the World Cup, nothing in the buildup will be remembered.
The squad that Ramos selected features players from clubs all over the world. With thirteen professional palyers, six college players, and a single player from the USSF Developement academy. .This squad will have to win a group that features Costa Rica and Haiti- a side that has been undefeated in their past six Caribbean qualifiers.
U20 USMNT vs. Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 22, 6:30 pm EST, Fox Soccer Channel.
GOALKEEPERS: Cody Cropper (Southampton FC; Maple Grove, Minn.), Kendall McIntosh (Santa Clara; Santa Rosa, Calif.), Zackary Steffen (FC DELCO Academy; Downington, Pa.)
DEFENDERS: Eric Miller (Creighton; Woodbury, Minn.), Juan Pablo Ocegueda (C.D. Guadalajara; Riverside, Calif.), Boyd Okwuonu (North Carolina; Edmund, Okla.), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids; Boulder, Colo.), Javan Torre (UCLA; Santa Monica, Calif.)
MIDFIELDERS: Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake; Garden Grove, Calif.), Benji Joya (Santos Laguna; San Jose, Calif.), Mikey Lopez (Sporting Kansas City; Mission, Texas), Caleb Stanko (SC Freiburg; Holly, Mich.), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew; Gahanna, Ohio), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids; Brighton, Colo.)
FORWARDS: Brandon Allen (Georgetown; Old Bridge, N.J.), Daniel Cuevas (Santos Laguna; Sacramento, Calif.), Daniel Garcia (North Carolina; Dallas, Texas), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart; Berlin, Germany), Mario Rodriguez (1. FC Kaiserslautern; North Hollywood, Calif.) Jose Villarreal (LA Galaxy; Inglewood, Calif.)