- Major League Soccer's 2019 season kicks off this weekend
- The league is well-stocked with USA youth internationals
- Three could be difference makers at the U-20 World Cup in Poland
The 2019 Major League Soccer (MLS) season gets underway this weekend, and with it comes the return to club football for a number of promising United States U-20 internationals.
Tab Ramos’ 2018 CONCACAF U-20 Championship-winning side featured nine MLS players, and many are likely to be in the head coach’s plans come this May for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019.
The USA were drawn into Group D and will compete with Qatar, Nigeria and Ukraine for a spot in the knockout rounds.
When the time comes, Ramos will face a unique challenge in selecting his squad. A crop of eligible players are arguably too experienced to join the U-20 squad: on-loan PSG forward Timothy Weah, Werder Bremen forward Josh Sargent and RB Leipzig wunderkind Tyler Adams have all already started and scored for the senior national team.
Philadelphia Union central defender Mark McKenzie, who helped the U-20 side win gold last year at the CONCACAF Championship, earned his senior debut this past December.
Setting aside those with senior team caps, here are three MLS players on the cusp of breakout club campaigns that could spur stellar performances in Poland.
Defender, Sporting Kansas City
The youngest of the trio, 18-year-old Jaylin Lindsey made his MLS debut in June 2018. A tenacious right-back, he appeared in seven matches (six starts) for Sporting Kansas City as the club finished the regular season atop the league’s Western Conference. While World Cup veteran Graham Zusi continues to hold the starting spot at SKC, Lindsey has proved his worth deputising for the USA international.
On the international level, Lindsey’s lock-down defending helped the USA U-20s top the 2018 CONCACAF Championship and secure their place in Poland. Called into Ramos’ most recent U-20 camp, the North Carolina native certainly seems poised to join the USA kicking off their World Cup campaign against Ukraine on 24 May.
Midfielder, D.C. United
D.C. United’s 19-year-old holding midfielder suddenly found himself playing alongside Wayne Rooney last summer, and he thrived under the pressure as the club improbably pushed to clinch a playoff spot. Chris Durkin was metronomic, registering 23 appearances and over 1500 minutes for one of the most-improved teams in MLS.
Durkin has been a mainstay in the USA youth set-up; he scored at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India and has since caught the eye of Ramos, who picked Durkin to participate in his first U-20 camp of 2019.
Midfielder, FC Dallas
With former academy director Luchi Gonzalez assuming the head coach role for FC Dallas this season, Paxton Pomykal is primed to reap the rewards. Pomykal has yet to consistently break into the Texas club’s starting line-up – he made just one start in 2018 – but a youth movement looks afoot in 2019, giving the 19-year-old attacking midfielder a chance to prove himself at the club’s highest level.
Team-mate Alex Mendez deservedly took home the Golden Ball at the last CONCACAF U-20 Championship, but it was Pomykal who assisted both of his goals against rivals Mexico in the final. Pomykal was one of two USA players to appear in all eight matches at the tournament and, like Lindsey and Durkin, was part of the January U-20 camp.