Last night was a late one for coach Tab Ramos as he awaited the draw for the U20 World Cup live from Auckland, New Zealand, but Ramos should have enjoyed a decent night’s rest after the Americans were drawn into Group A alongside Myanmar, Ukraine, and host nation New Zealand.
Ramos’ Young Yanks open the 24 nation tournament against Myanmar on May 30, in the city of Whangarei, before traveling to Auckland, where they will face both the Kiwi’s, on June 2, and Ukraine on June 5.
This will be Ramos’ second go round with this age group at a World Cup, and the draw was much kinder to the coach than it was two years ago in Turkey, when the “Group of Death” proved too much for the U.S.
Not to write of this year’s opposition, but the Americans certainly should fare better in New Zealand than they did in 2013, when Ramos and company came up against Spain, Ghana, and eventual champions France.
The Americans earned just one point in the tournament, sandwiching a 1-1 tie with France between a pair of 4-1 defeats.
“It’s always an exciting moment to know your group as the reality sets in for the World Cup stage,” Ramos told ussoccer.com. “New Zealand, Ukraine and Myanmar will certainly prove to be formidable opponents. At this phase, every country is a challenge, so we will need to be clicking on all cylinders tactically, physically and mentally. We made great strides during the qualifying tournament, and we’re confident that with our deep pool of players that we can have a successful run at the World Cup.”
The Americans did not impress at the CONCACAF U20 Championship in January, finishing third and needing a 2-0 playoff victory over El Salvador to qualify for the 2015 U20 Cup.
An opening draw with Guatemala, followed by a 1-0 loss to Panama put the U.S. in a hole, and raised serious questions regarding the quality of this side, one that had been highly touted coming into the tournament.
An 8-0 laugher over Aruba put the U.S. back on track, then came a 2-0 win over disappointing home team Jamaica. Los Angeles Galaxy prospect Bradford Jamieson IV shot the U.S. into a playoff against El Salvador when he scored the games only goal in the final group stage game against Trinidad and Tobago.
The United States team that heads to New Zealand will be backboned by an outstanding young keeper in Zack Steffen, who recently signed with Bundesliga club Freiburg.
Fullback Shaquell Moore and attacker Romain Gall made the CONCACAF Championship Best 11, but Fulham midfielder Emerson Hyndman emerged as the top American player at the tournament.
Hyndman left the January 29 El Salvador match with what turned out to be a broken collarbone, but with an expected six week recovery period, the U.S. string puller should be back to 100% fitness well before the U20 World Cup.
Ramos will also be hoping to add Rubio Rubin to his roster, the Utrecht striker would give this team a much needed finisher.
The FIFA U-20 World Cup runs May 30-June 20 among seven sites in New Zealand: Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Wellington and Whangarei. The championship and third-place matches take place Saturday, June 20, at the 25,000-capacity QBE Stadium in Auckland.
The top two teams in each group, as well as the best four third-place teams, advance to the Round of 16 on June 10 and 11.
This is the 14th occasion that the USA has advanced to a FIFA World Youth Championship or World Cup at this age group.
Group A: New Zealand (host), Ukraine, USA, Myanmar
Group B: Argentina, Panama, CAF 3, Austria
Group C: Qatar, Colombia, Portugal, CAF 4
Group D: Mexico, CAF 2, Uruguay, Serbia
Group E: CAF champion, Brazil, Korea DPR, Hungary
Group F: Germany, Fiji, Uzbekistan, Honduras
U.S. U-20 MNT’s Group A Schedule:
May 30: USA vs. Myanmar; Northland Events Center, Whangarei
June 2: New Zealand vs. USA; QBE Stadium, Auckland
June 5: Ukraine vs. USA, QBE Stadium, Auckland