What the Under-20 World Cup Win Will Mean for England

England’s Under-20 World Cup win is their first victory in a worldwide international tournament since 1966. With a 1-0 triumph over Venezuela in Korea on Sunday, the Young Lions are on the up. But success at the youth level is no stranger in recent times; England have won the last two editions of the Toulon Tournament.

The dilemma comes when transitioning to the senior team. Whether it be the BBC predicting the squad for Russia 2018 four years prior or the notorious “England of the Future” article in 2007, the development pathway for English youth has been murky at best. Many come highly-touted or overhyped, but few make good on the promise of their youth team accomplishments.

Given the logistics of the Premier League, it is no wonder so many players are strangled out of young careers. But with a global tournament win under their belt, and a manager, given his time as coach of the under-21s, familiar with the youth set-up, this may be one of the best times to be a young English footballer in recent history.

Gareth Southgate is seemingly more willing to pick players on merit than his predecessors. Given the inclusion of Jake Livermore and Jermain Defoe, this might mean more caps for the consistent elder statesmen of the Premier League. Conversely, James Ward-Prowse’s long-awaited inclusion is hope for the future. This triumph might eventually mean nothing for the senior team, but for now it means hope.

What the Under-20 World Cup Win Will Mean for England’s Senior Team

Spearheaded by new Liverpool signing Dominic Solanke and Everton youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the Young Lions were a force to be reckoned with in Korea. With Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook, fellow Merseysider Ademola Lookman, and Tottenham’s Josh Onomah in midfield, this is an accomplished England side. All have made their professional debuts, and Chelsea defenders Fikayo Tomori and Jake Clarke-Salter did the same last season. Performances like this on the global stage can only increase their profile as players. Whether that results in more appearances, or better loan deals, it only means good.

Previously, promising England youngsters have struggled for senior minutes at the club level. But with increasing senior appearances for younger players, English development should match that seen in Germany and Spain. It is all a series of incremental improvements: as players play more they develop faster; as they develop faster, they get play more; as both of those things happen, England get better.

The Supporting Cast

What is promising about this England squad is that the majority of this squad are professionals already. Freddie Woodman has 24 senior appearances on loan; Jonjoe Kenny 26, Lewis Cook 86, Fikayo Tomori 10, Jake Clarke-Salter 13, Josh Onomah 13, Dominic Solanke 26, Ademola Lookman 53, Calvert-Lewin 47, and Kieran Dowell two. Kyle Walker-Peters was the only starter in the final without a senior appearance. Although many of these are on loan, these players are experiencing senior football.

Many of these young men are now ready to contribute to their parent clubs. This triumph might be the stimulus required for their clubs to trust them. Had more of them followed the path of Eric Dier or Lewis Baker, by going continental with their development, they might already be at that point.

Dominic Solanke: Player of the Tournament

Although some think his award undeserved, goals mean prizes as Dominic Solanke ran away with the player of the tournament award. Four goals in seven matches saw him only bested by Riccardo Orsolini. Solanke is an elite level talent, despite spending the year playing in the new PL2. A successful first season at the senior level saw him score seven goals in 25 appearances at Vitesse Arnhem on loan. As contract negotiations stalled over his unhappiness with the current development pathway at Chelsea, he eventually found his way to Liverpool this summer.

With the compensation yet to be determined by tribunal, Chelsea’s loss is Liverpool, England, and Solanke’s gain. Jürgen Klopp’s track record of providing young players with opportunities bodes well. Combined with the probable promises of first team football, Solanke could yet be a gem for England.

England of the Future

It is nigh on impossible to make predictions when it comes to youth players. This entire squad could go on to accomplish minimal in the game, but they could be the first young England class to unanimously cement themselves as seniors. Youth football is fickle. Dominic Solanke could become Carlton Cole or Harry Kane; Lewis Cook like Michael Johnson or Steven Gerrard. For now, all the Under-20 World Cup win means is hope.

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