By DAN KARELL
The FIFA Under-20 World Cup begins on June 21, but United States U-20 coach Tab Ramos and his staff are already hard at work finding the 23 players they believe will bring home the title.
Ramos and the U-20’s recently wrapped up a training camp on April 28, culminating with a 6-2 friendly match victory over Cal FC, but now the side turns their focus to the Toulon Tournament in France, which runs from May 28-June 8. It’s the first time since 2008 that the U.S. has taken part in the tournament, and they’ll play against France on the opening day of the competition.
“We’ll be playing against many competitive teams, most of which are going to the U-20 World Cup afterward, so it’s a great opportunity to get some games under our belt, particularly for those who have not been playing as much,” Ramos said to USSoccer.com “We will be giving all of the players a lot of time on the field against international competition.”
At the April training camp, the coaching staff was able to call in some players who had spent time recently on the injury table as well as guys who had been on the fringes of the player pool.
“This was our first chance to have players like Victor Pineda and Alfred Koroma here after they had been injured for a period of time to see how far they’ve come along, which was great,” Ramos said. “We discovered players like Jordan Morris and Marlon Hairston, who were new to the camp.”
One of the differences between this cycle’s group of players and past cycles is the amount of players who are currently playing professional soccer either in Major League Soccer or abroad. Players like Jose Villarreal, Luis Gil, DeAndre Yedlin, and Shane O’Neill are all getting minutes for their MLS clubs, while Caleb Stanko, Jerome Kiesewetter, and Mario Rodriguez are all getting reserve team minutes with their clubs in Germany.
“No question, we are more confident now as the players are getting more opportunities with their club teams and are growing overall,” Ramos stated. “The key challenge for us is to keep reminding them that they are just at the beginning of their careers. They need to continue to push themselves.”
A 22-player squad will be chosen for the Toulon Tournament in the next few days.
What do you make of these quotes? Who would you like to see in the squad for the Toulon Tournament? Do you see Ramos calling in a full squad to France or saving some guys for the World Cup?
Share your thoughts below.