United States U20 World Cup squad revealed: Full roster & future USMNT players to watch, including Kevin Paredes, Gaga Slonina and Cade Cowell
The U20 World Cup, which starts on May 20, is the premier showcase for the next generation of soccer stars around the world. These players have spent much of their teenage years sharpening their craft on imperfect pitches with few spectators and are now ready to put their names on your lips.
The U.S. squad was finalized on May 10. While there are some big names that didn't make the cut due to clubs not releasing them for the tournament, there are still important prospects such as Gaga Slonina and Cade Cowell set to be involved.
GOAL takes a look at the full U.S. U20 World Cup squad and players to watch at the tournament in Argentina...
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Gabriel Slonina is the nailed-down starting goalkeeper, his move from MLS to Chelsea raising his profile to almost unprecedented levels for an 18-year-old American shot-stopper. Yes, the Stars and Stripes have a track record of quality players in this position. No, none have ever been so widely seen as potential world-class stars who could one day anchor the defenses of elite Champions League clubs.
Importantly, Slonina is quietly driven yet humble - a trait that could help keep him from letting a long process to break into Chelsea first-team from breaking his focus.
“My friends always sent me screenshots of the internet rumors and my names with one of the best clubs in the world," he said of the time before the Blues brought him to England. "It is still a bit weird as Chelsea is one of the biggest clubs and to think where I started from to get to that point is unbelievable.
“I almost thought it was fake [when Petr Cech called]. I had to listen in to make sure it was him, luckily I didn’t hang up. I couldn’t believe that I was talking to Petr Cech so to listen to him and his advice was an honor. I was super impressed that he knew my game. It shows how to conduct yourself when you get to a certain place in life. It is a credit to him and what a legend he is that he is trying to inspire younger keepers. He a great guy. It’s great to have American owners and I want to prove they made the right choice.”
Slonina became the senior USMNT's youngest goalkeeper ever in early 2023. But he desperately needs as much high-level playing time as he can get, so he's a no-brainer inclusion for the U20 tournament.
Meanwhile, his replacement in Chicago, Chris Brady, was not allowed to go to the tournament by the Fire, so Slonina will be joined by Antonio Carrera and Alexander Borto.
U.S. goalkeepers at U20 World Cup:
Gabriel Slonina (Chelsea)
Antonio Carrera (FC Dallas)
Alexander Borto (Fulham)
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Joshua Wynder debuted in the USL Championship with Louisville City at the age of 16, attracting the attention of scouts from all around the world and winning a berth on the U.S. U20 squad. The defensive prospect is set to join Portuguese powerhouse Benfica in the summer after signing with the club for an undisclosed fee.
“He loves coming to work every day,” said his Louisville club manager Danny Cruz. “He’s a humble human being with a great character. When times are rough, and maybe you lose a bad game, or you’re not playing well, he’s a kid that comes in and tries to get better and he raises the mood in the locker room.
"And I think those are characteristics and traits that, my hope is, you know, five, six years down the line, I see him and he’s still the same human being. I know he will be because he’s someone that brings joy to a lot of people.”
Caleb Wiley was on the brink of being too developed for the U20 World Cup, but he's in the squad. Like Wynder, he's now on the verge of becoming a regular part of the senior team's squad rotation. Unlike Wynder, who is mighty impressive but still in the USL, he's killing it at MLS level and is already looking a polished product at 18. Also, Wiley could evolve into a full-time attacker considering his excellence going forward with Atlanta.
Jonathan Gomez, like Wynder, used Louisville City as a springboard to a European move when he joined Real Sociedad in 2021. The left-back has already represented the United States and Mexico at the senior national team level, and his international future is undetermined, but playing in the U20 World Cup for the U.S. would go a long way in getting him to commit to the Stars and Stripes' cause.
U.S. defenders at U20 World Cup:
Brandan Craig (Philadelphia Union)
Caleb Wiley (Atlanta United)
Mauricio Cuevas (LA Galaxy)
Marcus Ferkranus (LA Galaxy)
Jonathan Gomez (Real Sociedad)
Joshua Wynder (Louisville City FC)
Justin Che (Hoffenheim)
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In 2022, Jack McGlynn broke through as a regular with the Philadelphia Union and also became a fixture for the U.S. U20 side. McGlynn is a midfielder cut from the deep-lying playmaker cloth with excellent vision and a magical left foot (seriously, just the aesthetic having a left-footed conductor in the team is wonderful). He's also eligible for Ireland, but the U.S. could lock him up this year. He certainly wouldn't be the first to snub Ireland (you can't see us, but we're gesturing in the general direction of Declan Rice and Jack Grealish right now).
Under the guidance of his father, Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff, Owen Wolff has emerged as a key player for the Matthew McConaughey-owned organization. The teenager plays as a central midfielder and brings a creative flare to the Verde and Black.
Obed Vargas established himself as one of the top prospects in the nation for his age group when made his Seattle Sounders debut at 15 years old - then the third-youngest player in MLS history. Though the Alaska native has only so far participated in the U.S. youth international system, the double-pivot midfielder is also eligible for Mexico.
Fans will be disappointed not to see top prospect Paxten Aaronson, who has not been allowed to attend by Eintracht Frankfurt. But Rokas Pukstas is in the squad despite his club previously saying he wouldn't be in the mix.
U.S. midfielders at U20 World Cup:
Jack McGlynn (Philadelphia Union)
Obed Vargas (Seattle Sounders)
Owen Wolff (Austin FC)
Rokas Pukstas (Hajduk Split)
Niko Taskiris (San Jose Earthquakes)
Daniel Edelman (New York Red Bulls)
Diego Luna (Real Salt Lake)
Kevin Paredes took a major leap forward in 2022 when he moved from D.C. United to Wolfsburg at the age of 18 (thanks, Wayne Rooney). After initially finding playing time at the Bundesliga team difficult, Paredes has established himself as a regular in 2022–2023 and frequently serves as an attacking spark off the bench. He has been dealing with a muscle strain but now appears ready to star at the U20 tournament.
Cade Cowell has gotten a bit of a lesson this year in soccer actually being a pretty hard sport, even for the uber-talented, and could use the U20 World Cup as a confidence booster, particularly if the Earthquakes want to showcase him to European scouts.
As anticipated, Ricardo Pepi is not in the squad, but the inclusion of Paredes is a pleasant surprise for the team.
U.S. attackers at U20 World Cup:
Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes)
Kevin Paredes (Wolfsburg)
Quinn Sullivan (Philadelphia Union)
Darren Yapi (Colorado Rapids)
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Who will the U.S. play at the U20 World Cup?
The United States has been drawn into Group B alongside Slovakia, Ecuador and Fiji. The tournament will follow the regular FIFA tournament format where each team will play three matches in the group stage, one against each of the other three sides in its group.
Date Match May 20, 2023 United States U-20 vs Ecuador U-20 May 23, 2023 United States U-20 vs Fiji U-20 May 26, 2023 Slovakia U-20 vs United States U-20
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U.S. history at U20 World Cup
The United States had its best U20 World Cup run in 1989 when the team managed a fourth-place finish after losing to Nigeria in the semi-finals and dropping the third-place game to a stacked Brazil squad that included future World Cup winner and PSG executive Leonardo.
The United States has made it to the quarter-final in three consecutive U20 World Cups, however, they'll hope they can go further in the tournament this time around given the quality in the squad.