The road to New Zealand
USA's path to this FIFA U-20 World Cup did not run as smoothly as previous journeys. The Stars and Stripes began their CONCACAF U-20 Championship campaign poorly with a 1-1 draw against Guatemala, followed by a 1-0 loss to eventual group winners and tournament runners-up Panama. However, an 8-0 thrashing of Aruba in the next game was the boost that the team needed, and ensuing wins against Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago secured the team a crucial play-off against El Salvador. With their qualification hopes resting on this one match, Ben Spencer and Paul Arriola scored on either side of half-time to give the Americans a 2-0 win and book their ticket to New Zealand.
Strengths and style
Strength in depth is one of the USA squad's key attributes and that strength starts from the back with goalkeeper Zack Steffen. The Americans might not even be headed to New Zealand had Steffen not saved a Jose Villavicencio penalty in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship play-off. Ahead of Steffen, New York Red Bulls centre-back Matt Miazga’s dominance in the air and build-up play helps the team initiate attacks. The Americans are arguably most formidable in midfield, where Fulham’s Emerson Hyndman, Hoffenheim’s Russell Canouse and San Jose Earthquakes’ Tommy Thompson are all key influences. Thompson operates on the right wing of Ramos’ favoured 4-4-2 formation, while Columbus Crew’s Romain Gall generally plays on the left. Gall scored five goals at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, sharing the golden boot honours with Mexico’s Hirving Lozano. The US will also look to Tijuana’s Arriola, Molde’s Spencer and LA Galaxy’s Bradford Jamieson IV for the goals.
USA and FIFA World Cup™ connoisseurs will be extremely familiar with head coach Tab Ramos. Ramos played in three senior World Cups (1990, 1994, 1998), a FIFA Confederations Cup (1992), an Olympic Football Tournament (1988), a Futsal World Cup (1989) and, crucially for this upcoming challenge in New Zealand, a U-20 World Cup (1983). The former Real Betis midfielder also served as assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann at Brazil 2014. Ramos’ experiences with the U-20 competition and at the game's highest level are sure help him prepare his team and relate with the players in all aspects ahead of their campaign kicking off in New Zealand.
FIFA U-20 World Cup record
- New Zealand 2015 will be USA's 13th appearance at the U-20 World Cup
- The Americans have progressed from the group stage eight times, with a fourth-place finish at Saudi Arabia 1989 their best showing
What they said
"What I really like about this team is the fact that it’s one of those teams that is really able to work together and to focus on goals. At no time [during qualifying] did we have players pulling in different directions. We were a united group from the beginning."
Tab Ramos, USA coach