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U-17 & U-20 World Cup rosters: similar or different?

With so much talent absent, is the number of returning key contributors on this year’s roster in line with what typically occurred in the past?

A couple of days ago, Will Parchman tweeted the thought above. This tweet got me thinking: what is the overlap of players between the U-17 World Cup and U-20 World Cup rosters for the United States? After crunching the numbers, the overlap percentage between the two tournaments is not that high.

I examined all of the U-20 and U-17 World Cups as far as I could go. However, the U-20 World Cup used to be know as the FIFA Youth Tournament, and the U-17 tournament used to be U-16. The 2013-2015, 2009-2011, and 1993-1995 cycle weren’t included because one of the teams didn’t qualify. In the 1995-1997 cycle, no players played for both teams. Unfortunately, I couldn’t analyze the Percentage of Minutes Returning and Percentage of Assists Returning all the way back to 1991 because that data was unavailable for the U-17 World Cup. (All data from FIFA and Wikipedia, while the graphs were made in Tableau)

Overlap Percentage

Overlap Percentage between U17 World Cup and U20 World Cup

As you can see in the graph above, the overlap between the two tournaments peaked in 2001-2003 cycle. Before 1999, the team had a lot of turnover because the player development wasn’t very consistent and some people exploded onto the scene later, or earlier, than others. This could be explained by the U-17 residency being formed in 1999. This program helped develop players, so they would be ahead of the other players. The uptick in 2011-2013 and 2015-2017 could be caused by the development academy forming in 2007. The 2015-2017 players were 10 when the developmental academy. That extra time could have caused them to be identified earlier.

The average percentage overlap was 23%, which means on a 21 man roster, only 5 players return. One would like to see more consistency, but that is tough at the age as in between these two tournaments is when players begin their pro careers. Ideally, a higher percentage of players would participate in both tournament. It should be noted, however, there is a different coach for both teams, who like different players. For instance, several players from the 2015 U-17 World Cup were left off the U-20 World Cup roster due to club commitments, senior national team commitments, and coach’s decisions, like Christian Pulisic.

Percentage of Goals Returning

Percentage of Goals scored by players who played at the U17 World Cup, then returned for the U20 World Cup

Percentage of Goals scored returning has a lot of variability, illustrated by the highest standard deviation of any of the statistics (25%). Standard Deviation is a number used to tell how measurements for a group are spread out from the average This graph slightly follows a similar trend to the graph above. But, it depends more on if the players returning were forwards or midfielders rather than goalkeepers or defenders.

Final Analysis

Will Parchman seems to be correct. The US returned a low percentage of goal scorers and players in general this year. They did, however, return a significant amount of their assists. Still, it didn’t seem to effect their play, as they made it to the quarterfinals. Hopefully in the years to come their will be more consistency between rosters of the two teams.