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Breaking down the Concacaf U-20 Championship roster

The U-20s look to qualify for next year’s World Cup and the 2024 Tokyo Olympics.

Philadelphia Union v New England Revolution

U.S. Soccer has released the 20-man roster for this summer’s Concacaf U-20 Championship. Head coach Mikey Varas will be looking to help the team qualify for next summer’s U-20 World Cup (by reaching the semifinals), and the Tokyo 2024 Olympics (by reaching the final).

The roster:

GOALKEEPERS (2): Christopher Brady (Chicago Fire FC; Naperville, Ill.), Antonio Carrera (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas

DEFENDERS (6): Noah Allen (Inter Miami CF; Miramar, Fla.), Brandan Craig (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.), Mauricio Cuevas (Club Brugge/BEL; Los Angeles, Calif.), Marcus Ferkranus (LA Galaxy; Santa Clarita, Calif.), Michael Halliday (Orlando City SC; Apopka, Fla.), Jalen Neal (LA Galaxy; Lakewood, Calif.)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Paxten Aaronson (Philadelphia Union; Medford, N.J.), Alejandro Alvarado Jr. (FC Vizela/POR; Los Angeles, Calif.), Caden Clark (New York Red Bulls; Wayzata, Minn.) Daniel Edelman (New York Red Bulls; Warren, N.J.), Diego Luna (Real Salt Lake; Sunnyvale, Calif.), Jack McGlynn (Philadelphia Union; Middle Village, N.Y.), Rokas Pukstas (Hajduk Split/CRO; Sillwater, Okla.), Niko Tsakiris (San Jose Earthquakes; Saratoga, Calif.), Obed Vargas (Seattle Sounders FC; Anchorage, Alaska)

FORWARDS (3): Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; Ceres, Calif.), Quinn Sullivan (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.), Tyler Wolff (Atlanta United FC; Braselton,Ga.)

Four alternates are also in camp: GK Alex Borto (Fulham), CB Jaziel Orozco (RSL), DM Tarun Karumanchi (UCLA), and ST Jackson Hopkins (DC United). These four will leave camp before the tournament if no rostered players are injured during that time.

All right, let’s break things down at each position.

Goalkeeper

Gaga Slonina is easily the top keeper in this age bracket. His form has dipped in MLS, but his performances have earned interest from clubs like Chelsea and Real Madrid. Chicago Fire most likely refused to release him for this tournament.

Antonio Carrera and Chris Brady are included, with Alex Borto as an alternate. Brady’s inclusion is somewhat of a surprise, as he is believed to be working his way back from an ankle injury. Carrera and Brady have 7 and 4 starts in MLS Next Pro, respectively. Interestingly, MLS Next Pro games go to penalty kicks if there is no winner in regular time, so both Carrera and Brady have played in 2 penalty shootouts.

Centerback

Justin Che and Tony Leone are the two highest-rated CBs in the pool. Che was most likely not released by Hoffenheim, and Leone is representing El Tri. Brandan Craig, Marcus Ferkranus, and Jalen Neal made the roster. It was interesting to see Josh Wynder left off. Wynder is young, as a 2005, but has made an impressive start to the season with independent USL Championship team Lou City.

Right Back

Mauricio Cuevas and Michael Halliday are the RBs on the roster. Varas chose to bring just 6 defenders, with 3 CBs, 2 RBs, and 1 LB. It’s possible Cuevas or Halliday may play some on the left, as the 3 group-stage games are each just 2 days apart. Cuevas is one of 3 players on the roster from a European club.

Left Back

Jonathan Gómez and Kevin Paredes are the highest-rated LBs in the pool. JoGo is in a dual-national tug-of-war with Mexico. He was in camp with their U-20s, but won’t be playing with them in the tournament, ostensibly due to picking up an injury in camp. Paredes most likely wasn’t released by Wolfsburg. Caleb Wiley is injured, and Noah Allen is the lone LB in camp.

Defensive Midfield

The line between CM and DM, is a little blurry with this group. Obed Vargas and Brooklyn Raines could also be considered DMs, but they’re in the next group. Daniel Edelman is the only defensive mid on the roster, with Tarun Karumanchi among the alternates. Danny Leyva and Moses Nyeman have both seen their stock drop considerably since the beginning of this cycle, just 8 months ago, but both remain high-potential players for the future.

Center Midfield

Obed Vargas is the biggest name in this group, as the Seattle Sounders youngster has been a revelation in this season for the Concacaf Champions League winners. Vargas won’t be available for the group stage, but will join for the knockout rounds, an agreement worked out with the Sounders.

Alejandro Alvarado joins the group for the first time; Alex Mendez’s club teammate at Vizela made his first start in Portugal’s top tier this spring.

Brooklyn Raines has looked promising in US Open Cup games with Houston — he’s not allowed to suit up in MLS play due to arcane roster rules — but doesn’t make the cut here.

Attacking Midfield

There’s lots of creativity here. Paxten Aaronson and Caden Clark are two of the stars of this team.

Clark’s career hasn’t moved as quickly as first supposed, being loaned back to the Red Bulls from their counterpart in Leipzig, but he’s shown his quality in MLS.

Diego Luna gets the nod, after signing with Real Salt Lake from El Paso Locomotive in USL.

Esmir Bajraktarevic and Patrick Leal are the unlucky ones left out. Leal made his Serie A debut this spring with Venezia after the club’s relegation was confirmed.

Winger

Cade Cowell is the headliner. With no true 9 on the roster, Cowell and Clark may be asked to feature centrally as a false 9.

Brian Gutiérrez has been playing well with Chicago in MLS, but it’s possible they refused to release him, as they did with Slonina. Paredes and Sealy are two technical players who would have brought a lot to this team, if available.

Striker

No true striker made the roster. It would’ve been a shock to see Ricardo Pepi with this team. Augsburg likely wouldn’t have released him, either. Damion Downs scored a hat-trick in a first-team Köln friendly this spring.

Here are the group-stage games:

  • vs St. Kitts & Nevis, Saturday June 18, 8:30pm
  • vs Canada, Monday June 20, 8:30pm
  • vs Cuba, Wednesday June 22, 8:30pm

There have been reports that the games will be televised on TUDN, but we’re waiting on US Soccer to make things official.

What do you think of the roster? What do you think of our chances of qualifying? Hit the comments to let us know.