If there are frustrated fans of the US Men’s National Team looking for a beacon of light before the January camp gets underway, look to some younger Yanks in Jamaica. The CONCACAF U-20 qualification tournament for the 2015 U-20 World Cup in New Zealand is underway, and if the Yanks on display are any indication, the future for US Soccer is incredibly bright.
It’s hard to project a U-20 team for their future national team prospects, but a few have already cracked that ceiling before they’ve even turned 20. The young Fulham midfielder Emerson Hyndman has already broken into Fulham’s 1st team and has even earned a full senior team cap already. He is an incredibly talented midfielder who figures to be a stalwart for the senior team for years to come based on his technical ability and maturity. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Many of these young Yanks are already in Europe aside from Hyndman. Lynden Gooch has been impressing at Sunderland, Junior Flores recently made a move to Borussia Dortmund, and Russell Canouse has been at Hoffenheim for an extended period of time leading up to this tournament. The starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen has just moved to Freiburg after two years at the University of Maryland, and he was a member of the 2013 U-20 team in Turkey as the third keeper. And Cameron Carter-Vickers, an England-US dual national from Tottenham’s academy might be one of the most impressive young centerbacks that many US watchers have ever seen, and he’s only 17.
Beyond that, many of these players already have first team football under their belts on this side of the pond too. Matt Miazga has seen time with the Red Bulls, so has Romain Gall with Gregg Berhalter and the Columbus Crew, Kellyn Acosta has become a fixture for Oscar Pareja at FC Dallas and Tommy Thompson has seen a few games for the San Jose Earthquakes too. The Tijuana contingent is also talented with Paul Arriola, Fernando Arce Jr and John Requejo all showing signs of cracking the first team at such a young age.
The upshot is this U-20 team may be one of the most talented the US has ever produced, both domestically and outside US borders, and if they do qualify for the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand they will have a shot to prove just how talented they are, and just how far the US has come in developing their young talent, even if some have flourished in foreign academies.
Past U-20 teams had one or two standout talents with the rest of the squad being filled with solid if unspectacular players. But this team didn’t even take one of its most talented forwards in Jordan Morris, the Stanford standout who has also already been handed senior caps. And with the young players that just missed the age cut-off, the young talent in US Soccer is brimming.
Combine this tournament with the young players on the January camp roster, and it’s evident that the future is bright for US Soccer, maybe brighter than it has ever been, even if the present is somewhat murky. And that is a welcome breath of fresh air.