USA
© AFP

The past
The Americans are no strangers to the FIFA U-20 World Cup, with Turkey 2013 their 13th appearance at the world youth showpiece. While the Stars and Stripes are regulars at the event, they missed out on the last finals in Colombia in 2011, bringing to a halt a run of six straight appearances at the U-20 extravaganza. Their best performance came back in Saudi Arabia in 1989, when the team, led by a young Kasey Keller between the sticks, finished fourth.  In recent years, their best performances came in 1993, 2003 and 2007, when they reached the quarter-final stage.

The present
The current American side is the strongest in recent memory. They stretched the Mexicans in the final of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament, pushing the game to extra-time before eventually losing out. The team’s creative engine in midfield is the outstanding Hector Joya, who has already lined up in the first team for Mexican top-flight club Santos Laguna. His orchestrations help show the way for the likes of Jose Villarreal in attack, and at the other end of the pitch, Cody Cropper is a formidable presence in the nets.

The future
The team is led by a former USA playing legend of the 1980s and 90s, Tab Ramos, who represented the States in Mexico at the 1983 U-20 World Cup. Together with his assistants, fellow USA internationals Brian Bliss and Thomas Dooley, Ramos has built a young team to match his former playing style: quick, clever and elegant. “This is an exciting group of players,” Ramos said during the qualifying competition in Mexico. “I was always proud to represent the USA as a player and now I am proud to represent the States as a coach. I want to win every game and I want this team to be successful.”