Preview: USA aim to win group vs Slovakia at FIFA U-20 World Cup

FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023 squad by position (club, hometown, U-20 caps/goals)

GOALKEEPER (3): 21-Alex Borto (Fulham/ENG; South Plainfield, NJ; 2/0), 12-Antonio Carrera (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas; 4/0), 1-Gaga Slonina (Chelsea/ENG; Addison, Illinois; 7/0)

DEFENDERS (7): 17 – Justin Che (Hoffenheim/GER; Dallas, Texas; 7/0), 5 – Brandan Craig (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 12/1), 14 – Marcus Ferkranus (LA Galaxy; Santa Clarita , California; 12/0), 13-Jonathan Gómez (Real Sociedad/ESP; Keller, Texas; 8/1), 2-Michael Halliday (Orlando City SC; Apopka, Florida; 9/0), 3- Caleb Wiley ( Atlanta United FC; Atlanta, Georgia; 7/1), 4-Joshua Wynder (Louisville City FC; Louisville, Kentucky; 3/0)

MIDFIELDER (7): 6-Daniel Edelman (New York Red Bulls; Warren, NJ; 12/0), 10-Diego Luna (Real Salt Lake; Sunnyvale, CA; 18/5), 8-Jack McGlynn (Philadelphia Union) . ; Middle Village, NY; 18/2), 20-Rokas Pukstas (Hajduk Split/CRO; Stillwater, Oklahoma; 12/1), 15-Niko Tsakiris (San Jose Earthquakes; Saratoga, Calif.; 7/3), 18-Obed Vargas (Seattle Sounders FC ; Anchorage, Alaska; 6/0), 16-Owen Wolff (Austin FC; Austin, Texas; 5/1)

FORWARD (4): 9-Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; Ceres, California; 8/3), 11-Kevin Paredes (Wolfsburg/GER; South Riding, Virginia; 6/2), 7-Quinn Sullivan (Philadelphia). Union; Philly, Pennsylvania; 17/7), 19-Darren Yapi (Colorado Rapids; Denver, Colorado; 5/0)

Patience pays vs. Fiji: Three second-half goals gave the USA a 3-0 win over Fiji in the second game of Group B. After dominating the ball all afternoon and beating the Junior Bula Boys 31-6, second-half substitute Diego Luna finally broke through in the 66th minute. The USA pressed until the end when striker Cade Cowell struck in the 88th minute after threatening Fiji from the left wing for much of the game. Defender Caleb Wiley scored the winning point in the ninth minute of added time, rebounding from a well-taken free-kick from defender Brandan Craig.

SOME GOOD, SOME BAD FOR SLOVAKIA: In their second appearance at the U-20 World Cup, Slovakia started the tournament with a strong 4-0 victory over Fiji. The Sokoli took a 2-0 lead within the first 25 minutes as Slovakia took an early lead with goals from striker Adam Gazi and midfielder Mate Szolgai. Midfielder Artur Gajdos and striker Timotej Jambor added two more in the 70th and 79th minutes respectively to cap a convincing win. Slovakia met a hungry team from Ecuador in the second game and lost 2-1 after the South Americans caught up. Szolgai opened the scoring in the 29th minute, but Ecuador’s Justin Cuero equalized in first-half injury time and Jose Klinger scored the winner in the 59th minute.

USA squad notes Goalkeeper Gaga Slonina, defenders Brandan Craig and Jonathan Gómez and midfielder Jack McGlynn have all played 180 minutes for the USA in Argentina. Players born on or after January 1, 2003 are age eligible for the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Head coach Mikey Varas selected ten players born in 2003, eight players born in 2004 and three players born in 2005. Born in 2005, the three players – defender Joshua Wynder and midfielders Niko Tsakiris and Obed Vargas – are also eligible for the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2025. The squad includes players from 18 clubs, including 11 from Major League Soccer, Led by three players from the Philadelphia Union and two from the San Jose Earthquakes. Six players are stationed abroad: two each in England and Germany and one each in Croatia and Spain. A total of 13 states are represented on the roster, with four players from both California and Texas. Anchorage native Vargas is a rare World Cup squad pick from Alaska. Six players have been called up to the full USMNT, including four who have already made their senior debuts. Striker Cade Cowell (three caps) and defender Gómez (two caps) lead the team, while goalkeeper Slonina made his debut against Serbia last January. Most recently, defenseman Caleb Wiley made his debut as a substitute at the Allstate Continental Clásico in April against Mexico. Defense attorneys Justin Che and Wynder have been called up to the USMNT camp and are still searching for their full international debuts. The USA qualified for the 2023 U-20 World Cup by taking home their third straight confederation title at last summer’s Concacaf U-20 Championship in Honduras. Striker Quinn Sullivan was voted into the tournament’s top XI after scoring six goals in Honduras. Sullivan and goalkeeper Antonio Carrera, defenders Craig, Marcus Ferkranus and Michael Halliday, midfielders Daniel Edelman, Diego Luna, Jack McGlynn, Rokas Pukstas and Tsakiris and forward Cowell all return from this World Cup qualifying squad. Every player in the squad is legal at U-20 level, led by Luna and McGlynn’s 17 appearances. Sullivan is the team’s top scorer with seven international goals, six of them in World Cup qualifying. Four players have attended eight of the 10 training camps held since the cycle began in November 2021: Ferkranus, Luna, McGlynn and Sullivan. USA VS. SLOVAKIA WARNING: Defender Josh Wynder and midfielders Diego Luna and Jack McGlynn received yellow cards in USA’s first two group stage games. Should any of the three receive a second caution against Slovakia, they will be suspended for the USA’s round of 16 game. The USA and Slovakia meet for the first time at the FIFA U-20 World Cup on Friday. This is Slovakia’s second appearance at the U-20 World Cup following their debut in the United Arab Emirates in 2003, where Sokoli reached the round of 16 before losing to eventual champions Brazil in added time. Eighteen of the 20 players in Slovakia’s squad are domestic, with five players coming from Zilina, one of the country’s most successful clubs. Three are based abroad in Austria, Italy and the Netherlands. Head coach Albert Rusnak has been coaching the Slovakia youth national team since 2018 after having coached at Slovakian clubs for several years. He is the father of Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Albert Rusnak. SLOVAKIA – POSITIONERS FOR THE FIFA U-20 WORLD CUP 2023 BY POSITION

GOALKEEPER (3): 1-Samuel Belanik (Zilina), 21-Adam Danko (Pohronie), 12-Adam Hrdina (Slovan Bratislava)

DEFENDERS (7): 3-Samuel Bagin (Trencin), 19-Samuel Kopasek (Zilina), 6-Sebastian Kosa (Spartak Trnava), 2-Simon Micuda (Trencin), 18-Nicolas Sikula (Zeleziarne Podbrezova), 5-David Ovsonka (Zeleziarne Podbrezova), 13-Marek Ujlaky (Spartak Trnava)

MIDFIELDER (5): 8-Artur Gajdos (Trencin), 4-Jan Murgas (Traiskirchen/AUT), 20-Mario Sauer (Zilina), 17-Dominik Snajder (Zilina), 14-Mate Szolgai (Samorin)

Strikers (6): 7-Balint Csoka (Samorin), 11-Adam Gazi (Tatran Liptovsky Mikulas), 9-Adam Griger (Cagliari/ITA), 10-Timotej Jambor (Zilina), 15-Nino Marcelli (Slovan Bratislava), 16-Leo Sauer (Feyenoord/NED)

HOW TO GET HERE Slovakia became the fifth and last European side to qualify for the World Cup after winning a play-off at the 2022 UEFA U-19 Championship. The Sokoli, played in Slovakia, finished third in their group, beating Romania, but were beaten by fellow World Cup contenders France and Italy. After the top two teams in each group qualified for Argentina, Slovakia met third-placed Austria in a World Cup playoff match. Defender Samuel Kopasek led Slovakia to a 1-0 win in a game in which Austria saw three red cards. U-20 WORLD CUP HISTORY

The United States has qualified for 17 of 23 all-time U-20 World Cups, tied for second all-time with Argentina. The biennial tournament was held for the first time in 1977 and Tunisia hosted the inaugural event, originally staged as the FIFA World Youth Championship before becoming the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2007. The first qualification of the USA took place in 1981 at the tournament held in Australia.

The USA made it out of the group stage 11 times in this competition, peaking in 1989. Led by future legendary USMNT goaltender Kasey Keller, the U.S. finished fourth in Saudi Arabia that year. Keller took home the Silver Ball at the tournament, while future senior team-mates Mike Burns, Neil Covone and Chris Henderson also played key roles. While the U-20 side progressed with just one win from the group stage, the USA beat Iraq in the quarters before losing to Nigeria in the semis in extra time.


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