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US U-20 Roster Reaction

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Eric Styles (Steelo9) joined me to add his thoughts on the roster

Germany U20 v USA U20 - International Match Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images

Tab Ramos named his roster for the U-20 World Cup on Friday. Eric Styles (Steelo9; @estyles_NYtoMN) and I wanted to share our thoughts on the group and what to look forward to at the competition. Without further ado:

Who is the biggest surprise inclusion?

Muncy: Brandon Servania. Servania has been beaten out for playing time by Edwin Cerrillo early in the season for FC Dallas, so I was surprised to see both get selected. I thought James Sands or Christian Cappis or Frankie Amaya might get the call instead.

Styles: Justin Rennicks. Between injuries and lack of playing time, not sure why Tab is so convinced he’s a better option than others. He’s quick with a great motor but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of his finishing. I think we had better options.

Who was the biggest snub?

Muncy: Julian Araujo. Ramos claimed that Araujo’s injury status played a role in this decision (which was made more confusing when Araujo started for LA over the weekend), but I thought his ability to lock down attackers and join the attack as well as his versatility made him valuable.

Styles: Four-way tie between Julian Araujo, Brenden Aaronson, James Sands, and Jonathan Amon. Araujo is back healthy and available for this weekends MLS match. Amon was always seen as a prize jewel of this U20 cycle but injuries and lack of playing time this season have hurt him. Aaronson and Sands, neither of which have been part of this U20 cycle, have taken MLS by storm this season. While Aaronson had deep competition in the form of Mendez, Pomykal and Ledezma, picking Sands would have made a ton of sense. Notable mention: Michael Edwards

Who stands to gain the most?

Muncy: Pomykal. He’s started off the MLS season on fire, but this event could has the type of stage that could truly put him on the map and could lead to a hefty sale to help FC Dallas’ Academy continue to produce future stars.

Styles: MLS guys. The guys with MLS teams are still looking for their ticket abroad to further their career. A standout U20WC performance for any of them will undoubtedly provide that.

Who could be an X factor?

Muncy: Alex Mendez. Mendez could be an X factor in many different ways, but his ability to score from distance and on set pieces could be huge if the US is to make a deep run.

Styles: Timothy Weah. Seems like an obvious choice here, but most of these guys have never played with Weah due to his meteoric rise at club right after the 2017 U17WC. Weah is at his best as a Striker but it’s too early to tell how Ramos intends to use him. Either way, he has explosive qualities and top-level experience. This group was missing a top-level Striker during the CONCACAF Championship. Weah is it. He is the X-factor.

Who do you think will be the standout performer?

Muncy: Ulysses Llanez. The Wolfsburg winger was brilliant at the U-20 Concacaf Championship and will get his first taste of a big stage after getting snubbed for the 2017 U-17 World Cup. I believe he is salivating at the opportunity to show out and will do so.

Styles: Alex Mendez. The last two US U20WC rosters were anchored by strong defenders and goalkeepers. This cycle should prove differently, in a positive and refreshing way. Possession and attack-minded players like Mendez, Ledezma, Pomykal, Llanez, KDF, Weah, etc, just didn’t exist in previous cycles. The strength of this group is in midfield, and the leader is Alex Mendez.

What has you most excited?

Muncy: The wingers. The group of Weah, Llanez and de la Fuente has tons of talent. Llanez and KDLF are dynamite at beating defenders off the dribble and Weah has the movement to give defenses fits. Between Mendez and Ledezma centrally and this group out wide, the US will be capable of creating danger consistently.

Styles: The Attack. This group has CM’s at the core and very promising wide players, including fullbacks. It’s a perfect example of what USMNT fans should be excited about for WC 2026. This team is expected to prove we can control the flow of the game and attack with creativity and skill. This has not been the case in the history of our program. When you consider age group guys like Tyler Adams and Josh Sargent aren’t even included, along with the very talented injured and snubbed players, all USMNT fans have reason for optimism.

What has you concerned?

Muncy: Defending. Dest is a monster in possession and on the attack, but he’s had his struggles at times on the other end. Mark McKenzie has struggled with his health and most of the midfield options are offensively-minded. While this team has the possession and attacking options to cause many teams problems, I think they might ship some goals as well.

Styles: Only one RB. Untimely injuries to Julian Araujo (now healthy), Jaylon Lindsey, and Tab’s decision to not include Manny Perez, leaves this US U20 group putting all hopes and dreams on the durability of Sergino Dest. Does this mean we might see them play a 3-back against some opponents? Very possible. Otherwise, someone is likely to play way out of position if Dest goes down or picks up a game suspension.

What would be a successful tournament?

Muncy: This team is coming into the tournament with higher expectations than any in recent memory. I think they absolutely have the talent to make it to a semifinal. For me, it’ll be successful if the US isn’t played off the field by the better opponents they face, regardless of the result. This group has the talent to play with many at this event and should play like it.

Styles: The US U20’s have reached the Quarterfinals in each of the last two U20 World Cups. The obvious sign of progress would be making it to the semifinals. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. My definition of a successful tournament is to make it out of the Group and look competitive in every match, regardless of the opponent. Additionally, this tournament needs to be a springboard for multiple players. If a few of these US-based guys attract the attention of Europe, this will only benefit the future of US Soccer, along with helping to bolster this age group. After all, this is the age group that will be in its prime for WC 2026.

Projected Starting XI (what we think we’ll see)

Muncy:

GK - Scott

Defense - Dest, McKenzie, Richards, Gloster

Midfield - Durkin, Pomykal, Mendez

Wings - Weah, Llanez

Striker - Soto

Styles:

GK – Scott

Defense – Dest, McKenzie, Richards, Gloster

Midfield – Durkin, Servania, Mendez

Wingers - Akinola, Pomykal

ST – Weah

Preferred Starting XI

Muncy:

GK - Scott

Defense - Dest, McKenzie, Richards, Gloster

Midfield - Durkin, Pomykal, Mendez

Wings - de la Fuente, Llanez

Striker - Weah

Styles:

GK – Scott

Defense – Dest, McKenzie, Richards, Gloster

Midfield – Durkin, Mendez, Ledezma

Wingers - Pomykal, Llanez

Striker – Weah

Hit the comment section to let us know your thoughts. Thank you for reading.