PREVIEW: U-20 MYNT KICKS OFF WORLD CUP QUALIFYING KNOCKOUT STAGE WITH ROUND OF 16 MATCH VS. NICARAGUA
U.S. Under-20 Men’s Youth National Team vs. Nicaragua
2022 Concacaf U-20 Championship – Round of 16
Estadio Nacional; Tegucigalpa, Honduras
8:30 p.m. ET (Vix and Concacaf App, Facebook & YouTube)
U-20 MYNT STARTS KNOCKOUT STAGE: After topping Group E with an emphatic 3-0 win against Cuba, the U.S. Under-20 Men’s Youth National Team will begin the knockout stage of the Concacaf U-20 Championship with a Round of 16 match-up against Nicaragua (8:30 p.m. ET; Vix and Concacaf App, Facebook & YouTube). Los Pinoleros qualified directly to the knockout round by topping its group during pre-qualifying competition last November.
TOURNAMENT FORMAT: This year marks the 28th edition of the Concacaf U-20 Championship. The tournament began in 1962 as the Concacaf Youth Tournament, qualifying two teams to the FIFA U-20 World Cup from 1976-1994 and four teams from 1996 to now.
Following a myriad of different formats over the years, the 2022 competition introduces a new 20-team tournament akin to Concacaf’s most recent U-17 Men’s and U-20 and U-17 Women’s Championships. Sixteen countries are drawn into four groups of four, while four countries advance directly to the Round of 16 via a pre-qualifying tournament: Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Nicaragua.
The top three finishers in each group qualify to the Round of 16, where they will be joined by the four teams from pre-qualifying. From there, it’s a knockout bracket to the tournament final. The four winners of the quarterfinal matches will qualify to the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia, while the two winners of the semifinal matches will qualify to the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
The U.S. has participated in 25 of 28 Concacaf U-20 Championships, including each tournament since 1974, and qualified for the U-20 World Cup in 16 of 22 previous attempts. After missing the 2011 U-20 World Cup, the U.S. has played in the last four tournaments and is the only nation to reach the quarterfinals in the last three editions.
Concacaf and UEFA are the first confederations to host qualifying tournaments for the 2023 U-20 World Cup.
USA VS. NICARAGUA:
- Saturday marks the U-20 MYNT’s second meeting with Nicaragua at the Concacaf U-20 Championship and first since 1976.
- The USA topped Nicaragua 1-0 during the first group stage with future National Soccer Hall of Famer Rick Davis netting the lone goal. Davis would captain the senior USMNT throughout the 1980s.
- This year marks Nicaragua’s 10th participation in the Concacaf U-20 Championship. Its best finish came in 1976, reaching the second round group stage.
- At the 2018 tournament, Nicaragua finished fourth of six teams in Group B, topping Aruba and Saint Martin.
USA TOPS GROUP E: The USA’s final group stage match against Cuba served to determine first place in Group E, with the U.S. needing a win to overtake Cuba in the standings. The U-20s got off to a fast start as Caden Clark teed up Quinn Sullivan in just the second minute. Sullivan got on the board again six minutes later, this time on an assist from Alejandro Alvarado Jr. The Philadelphia Union forward completed his hat trick in the 43rd, finishing a nice pass from club teammate Paxten Aaronson.
CONCACAF U-20 CHAMPIONSHIP – FINAL GROUP E STANDINGS
NICARAGUA TO THE KNOCKOUT ROUND: Nicaragua qualified directly to the Round of 16 by winning pre-qualifying Group D last November in the Dominican Republic. Los Pinoleros routed the U.S. Virgin Islands 7-0 and Guyana 5-0 while edging the Cayman Islands 2-1 to win the group. Keylon Batiz, Jareck Caceres and Widman Talavera each netted three goals for Nicaragua at the tournament.
2022 CONCACAF U-20 CHAMPIONSHIP ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; HOMETOWN; U-20 CAPS/GOALS)
GOALKEEPERS (2): Christopher Brady (Chicago Fire FC; Naperville, Ill.; 3/0), Antonio Carrera (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas; 1/0)
DEFENDERS (6): Noah Allen (Inter Miami CF; Miramar, Fla.; 2/0), Brandan Craig (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.; 3/0), Mauricio Cuevas (Club Brugge/BEL; Los Angeles, Calif.; 4/1), Marcus Ferkranus (LA Galaxy; Santa Clarita, Calif.; 3/0), Michael Halliday (Orlando City SC; Apopka, Fla.; 3/0), Jalen Neal (LA Galaxy; Lakewood, Calif.; 5/0)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Paxten Aaronson (Philadelphia Union; Medford, N.J.; 6/3), Alejandro Alvarado Jr. (FC Vizela/POR; Los Angeles, Calif.; 2/0), Caden Clark (New York Red Bulls; Wayzata, Minn.; 6/2), Daniel Edelman (New York Red Bulls; Warren, N.J.; 4/0), Jackson Hopkins (D.C. United; Fredericksburg, Va.; 0/0), Diego Luna (Real Salt Lake; Sunnyvale, Calif.; 6/1), Jack McGlynn (Philadelphia Union; Middle Village, N.Y.; 6/1), Rokas Pukstas (Hajduk Split/CRO; Sillwater, Okla.; 6/1), Niko Tsakiris (San Jose Earthquakes; Saratoga, Calif.; 2/2)
FORWARDS (3): Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; Ceres, Calif.; 5/2), Quinn Sullivan (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.; 5/4), Tyler Wolff (Atlanta United FC; Braselton, Ga.; 4/1)
ROSTER UPDATE: D.C. United midfielder Jackson Hopkins has replaced Obed Vargas on the U-20 roster after Vargas was ruled out due to a back injury. Per tournament regulations, an injured player may be replaced in the event of injury after the group stage of the competition. The replacement must come from the 60-player provisional roster.
Hopkins joined the team in Honduras on Friday and will be available to play vs. Nicaragua on Saturday. He trained with the U-20 MYNT in Honduras prior to the tournament as an alternate. The 17-year-old midfielder signed as a Homegrown Player with D.C. in April and made his MLS debut this season, appearing in six matches across all competitions.
- With his hat trick against Cuba, Sullivan is now tied with four other players for second-most goals at CU20.
- Nine players have now scored for the U.S. at the tournament: Sullivan (three goals), Paxten Aaronson, Cade Cowell, Niko Tsakiris (two goals each), Caden Clark, Mauricio Cuevas, Jack McGlynn, Rokas Pukstas and Tyler Wolff.
- Three players have registered an assist for the U.S.: Clark and Diego Luna (three assists each), Sullivan (two), Aaronson and Alejandro Alvarado Jr.
- Hopkins is the lone player on the roster yet to be capped at the U-20 level.
ROAD TO HONDURAS: The global COVID-19 pandemic canceled the planned 2020 Concacaf U-20 Championship in Honduras and subsequent 2021 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia while forcing a long layoff in overall Youth National Team programming. The U-20 MYNT finally returned to the field in November 2021 at the Revelations Cup in Mexico, facing off against top competition in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico under new head coach Mikey Varas.
Varas has run three training camps this year to prepare for World Cup qualifying. The team gathered in Florida in January for a domestic training camp and scrimmages against MLS teams and then traveled to Argentina during the March international window for games against the host and River Plate. In April, Varas held a training camp in Southern California with a goal to expand the player pool.