The CONCACAF Men’s U-20 tournament is in the thick of things in Honduras, and the United States team are showing a level of skill at the youth level we’ve never seen before. After punching their ticket to the semifinals, and clinching a spot in the 2023 U-20 World Cup in the process, it’s time to start watching this team more closely, and who can impact the senior team soonest?
Don’t Sleep on the US Under-20s
The USA opened their tournament run against St Kitts and Nevis, who they thrashed 10-0. 7 different USMNT players scored, including a brace from San Jose product Nikolas Tsakiris. Brother of Brenden, Paxten Aaronson grabbed a brace as well. Facing Canada, the US trailed twice, and were able to equalize both times on the wings of Jack McGlynn and Cade Cowell. In the last game of the group stage, a Quinn Sullivan hat trick against Cuba sent the US flying into the knockouts.
⚽ Quinn Sullivan scores a Hat-Trick! 🇺🇸 @USYNT 3-0 | #CU20 pic.twitter.com/enc42xxcZW
— Concacaf (@Concacaf) June 23, 2022
Knockout Rounds (so far)
Quinn Sullivan went into the knockouts rolling, and continued that against Nicaragua. He added two more goals en route to the 5-0 domination. It was the Paxten Aaronson show in the quarterfinals against Costa Rica, as the Medford Messi Jr put two past the Ticos, guaranteeing the US a spot in Indonesia for the U-20 World Cup.
⚽ Goal! 🇺🇸
Paxten Aaronson's brace gives the @USYNT a 2-0 lead over Costa Rica. | #CU20 pic.twitter.com/VxBxBKMHba
— Concacaf (@Concacaf) June 29, 2022
Who might fit into the senior team?
So here’s the big question. Why care about a youth tournament? Well these players may not be that far removed from the senior team. Especially with the level they’ve shown against Concacaf. I don’t see a world where any of these guys make the flight to Qatar, but a few may be ready to go when the World Cup makes its way here in 2026.
Nepotism might be the first thing that comes to mind when you see his last name, but Paxten’s play speaks for itself. He would not be getting special treatment due to his last name if he found himself on the 2026 roster. Aaronson has tallied four goals so far this tournament, and has already garnered interest from Europe.
Already technically in Europe, Caden Clark is currently on loan at Red Bulls, with RB Leipzig being his parent club. The 19 year old has a goal and three assists for the U-20s, and would be 23 when the 2026 World Cup comes around.
The US now face hosts Honduras in the semi-final, where a win will guarantee the US a spot in the Olympics. After missing the olympics for three consecutive years, this is a great opportunity to make sure the country is represented in France at one of the biggest sporting celebrations in the world.