[U.S. UNDER-20 MEN] U.S. under-20 national team coach Thomas Rongen called up 14 pros -- eight from MLS and eight from foreign clubs -- for the 2011 Concacaf U-20 Championship that begins March 29 in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
Even without New York Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo, who will play with the senior national team in friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay, Rongen's team is the deepest of any U-20 team ever assembled.
It includes such highly rated players as Joe Gyau, who plays for German club Hoffenheim's second team, and 19-year-old Bobby Wood, who debuted this winter for German second division club 1860 Munich and has reportedly attracted the interest of several top Bundesliga clubs.
Like Gyau, Sebastian Lletget left the U-17 national team program before the 2009 world championship but has returned to the national team program at the U-20 level. He's a member of West Ham United's academy program.
The MLS group includes 2011 No. 1 SuperDraft pick Omar Salgado of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Two players return for the 2009 Under-20 World Cup team: defender Gale Agbossoumonde and midfielder Dillon Powers.
Agbossoumonde is the lone U-20 selection who has been capped at the senior level.
Probably the biggest surprise on the roster is UCLA junior Eder Arreola, one of four collegians.
Among the players who won't be headed to Guatemala are Alex Molano, Fuad Ibrahim and Adrian Ruelas, who started on the U.S. team that won the 2010 Milk Cup in Northern Ireland.
Ruelas recently debuted for Mexican First Division club Santos but faced stiff competition up front. Besides Gyau, Wood, Salgado and Arreola, the U.S. frontline includes Conor Doyle, who is playing for English club Derby County and drew the attention of the Ireland national team program.
Other foreign-based players not picked include former German U-17 Fabian Huzeler of Bayern Munich, former Portugal U-17 Alex Zahavi of Israel's Hapoel Acre and Josh Gatt, who recently moved from the Austrian second division to Molde of Norway.
"As a staff, we’ve done our due diligence during the last year and a half,” said Rongen. “I can’t speak enough about all the players that we’ve looked at who have put in a tremendous amount of work and energy in each and every camp. That made this selection probably tougher than any other cycle and that’s a good thing. It means we’ve gotten deeper in every position and that we’ve got a great talent pool.”
The 20-player group will travel to Dallas on March 20 for training before departing on March 25 to Guatemala, where it will attempt to qualify for the Under-20 World Cup for the eighth straight time.
The U.S. U-20s will face Suriname on March 29 and Panama on April 2 at Estadio Nacional Mateo Flores. Both games will be televised on ESPN Deportes and ESPN3.
The top two teams in each group will advance to the tournament quarterfinals, and the four quarterfinal winners will seal a berth to the U-20 World Cup, set for July 29-Aug. 20 in Colombia.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Zac MacMath (Philadelphia Union; St. Petersburg, Fla.), Cody Cropper (Ipswich Town; Athens, Ga.)
DEFENDERS (8): Gale Agbossoumonde (Djurgardens IF; Syracuse, N.Y.), Greg Garza (Estoril Praia; Grapevine, Texas), Moises Hernandez (FC Dallas; Dallas, Texas), Sacir Hot (New York Red Bulls; Fair Lawn, N.J.), Sebastien Ibeagha (Duke Univ.; Missouri City, Texas), Perry Kitchen (D.C. United; Indianapolis, Ind.), Zarek Valentin (Chivas USA; Lancaster, Pa.), Korey Veeder (Columbus Crew; St. Petersburg, Fla.)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Sebastian Lletget (West Ham United; San Francisco, Calif.), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union; Sacramento, Calif.), Moises Orozco (Tigres; Oxnard, Calif.), Dillon Powers (Univ. of Notre Dame; Plano, Texas), Kelyn Rowe (UCLA; Newport Beach, Calif.)
FORWARDS (5): Eder Arreola (UCLA; Chino Hills, Calif.), Conor Doyle (Derby County; McKinney, Texas), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim; Silver Spring, Md.), Omar Salgado (Vancouver Whitecaps; El Paso, Texas), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich; Irvine, Calif.)