The USA aims to reach the quarterfinals in consecutive U-20 World Cups for the first time in history when it faces New Zealand in the round of 16 on Thursday morning (7 a.m. ET FS1, Telemundo En Vivo).
“We know they're going to be a hard-working team, based on the last World Cup also,” said U.S. coach Tab Ramos, whose team won Group F with ties against Ecuador (3-3) and Saudi Arabia (1-1) and a win over Senegal (1-0). “And they're going to make things difficult. But I think we're learning, we're getting better. I feel our team will be prepared. We know that it's a 'final.' You have to come out and win it. There's no other result that's good now.”
Ramos guided the USA to a quarterfinal appearance in 2015, when the USA fell on PKs to eventual champion Serbia after a scoreless tie. In 2015 group play, the USA beat New Zealand, 4-0.
The USA, which lost playmaker Gedion Zelalem to a knee injury in its opener against Ecuador, will be without three suspended players: defenders Cameron Carter-Vickers and Aaron Herrera, and midfielder Derrick Jones, who had replaced Zelalem. The USA played a man-down for the entire second half after Carter-Vickers' ejection in the 1-1 tie with Saudi Arabia.
"I believe in this team, and so whoever has an opportunity to play," Ramos said. "I'm sure they're going to do a great job and we're ready to go the next game.”
Justen Glad, a backline starter in qualifying, will step in for Carter-Vickers, who wasn't available when the USA lifted the Concacaf U-20 Championship. Glad played 36 MLS games for Real Salt Lake since debuting in 2015 after signing Homegrown contract in 2014 and was RSL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. He arrived at the tournament recovering from a knee injury and entered the Saudi Arabia game at halftime. He was also an 84th-minute sub against Senegal.
New Zealand reached the second round thanks to a 3-1 win over Honduras and a scoreless tie with Vietnam while losing, 2-0, to France.
The Kiwis are led by striker Myer Bevan, who has has scored two of its three goals in South Korea. He recently signed with the Vancouver Whitecaps USL team after spending the last year at England’s Nike Academy.
Five of members of New Zealand squad have U.S. college ties.
Defender Hunter Ashworth, who scored the Kiwis' third goal, was raised in Southern California and made 13 appearances for the University of San Francisco in 2015. He red-shirted in 2016. Midfielder Joe Bell, who assisted twice against Honduras, is headed to the University of Virginia. Connor Probert played 19 games (13 starts, 3 goals, 3 assists) for the University of Kentucky in 2016. Forward Noah Billingsley started in 12 of his 19 appearances as a freshman (2 goals, 3 assists) for UC Santa Barbara in 2016. Forward Lucas Imrie is an incoming freshman at Loyola University Chicago.
To beat New Zealand on Thursday would mark only the fifth time that the USA won a game in the knockout stage of a U-20 World Cup. The USA's quarterfinal opponent would be Venezuela, which beat Japan, 1-0, in overtime of their round of 16 clash. Venezuela, which will have two extra days of rest -- thanks to a schedule set up to favor the host South Korea in case it won its group -- is the only perfect team in the tournament besides France. Venezuela won Group B with wins over Germany (2-0), Vanuatu (7-0) and Mexico (1-0).
Mexico advanced with a second-place finish in Group B, thanks to a 3-2 win over Vanuatu and a scoreless tie with Germany before losing, 1-0, to Venezuela. Costa Rica advanced with a third-place finish in Group C. After opening with a 1-0 loss to Iran, the Ticos tied Portugal, 1-1, and beat Zambia, 1-0.
In the round of 16, Mexico faces Senegal and Costa Rica meets England.
U.S. Soccer Roster: 64 players called into 'Futures Camp'
Sixty-four boys born in 2002 and 2003 are in U.S. Soccer’s first Boys’ National Team Futures Camp of 2017, May 26-30 at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, California.
U.S. Soccer launched the Futures program in 2015 to focus on players who appear to be on a later physical development path or are born in the second half of the year. The aim is to avoid the pitfalls of the relative age effect.
The camp will expose players “to a hyper-focused curriculum formulated around highlighting each player’s unique talents while challenging them to improve decision-making and speed of play, raise tactical awareness, and improve technical execution.”
The program is run by U.S. Soccer Director of Talent Identification Tony Lepore.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Alex Bobocea (New York Red Bulls; Glen Oaks, N.Y.), Khamari Culcleasure (D.C. United; Alexandria, Va.), William Evans (D.C. United; McLean, Va.).
DEFENDERS (8): Ori Bitton (Real So Cal; Agoura Hills, Calif.), Amir Daley (New York Red Bulls; Elmont, N.Y.), Jahlane Forbes (Orlando City SC; Clermont, Fla.), Carl Hartman (Richmond United; Richmond, Va.), Daniel Miller (D.C. United; Dunkirk, Md.), John Michael Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; Chatham, N.J.), Cole Verrico (Philadelphia Union; Kennett Square, Pa.), Omar Wahba (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.).
MIDFIELDERS (18): Matthew Acosta (New York Red Bulls; Annandale, N.J.), Gavin Brose (Vardar; Livonia, Mich.); Jackson Castro (Solar Chelsea SC; Plano, Texas), Alejandro Coury (New England Revolution; Yarmouth, Maine), Cade Cowan (Colorado Rush; Littleton, Colo.), Maxwel De-Bodene (D.C. United; Alexandria, Va.), Matthew Gee (Ballistic United; Hillsborough, Calif.), Tayvon Grey (Cedar Stars Academy - Bergan; Bronx, N.Y.), Christopher Hernandez (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), Tucker Lepley (Charalotte Soccer Academy; Charlotte, N.C.), Andrew Maia (New York Red Bulls; Kearny, N.J.), Mario Penagos (Sacramento Republic FC; Elk Grove, Calif.), Pablo Salazar Jr. (LA Galaxy; La Puente, Calif.), Ray Serrano (Seattle Sounders FC; Graham, Wash.), Benjamin Smith (Real Colorado; Centennial, Colo.), Nathan Stricker (PA Classics; Sinking Spring, Pa.), Jackson Temple (Continental FC DELCO; Millville, Pa.), Wan Kuzri Wan Kamal (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Metro; Carbondale, Ill.).
FORWARDS (3): Kyle Gee (Charlotte Soccer Academy; Charlotte, N.C.), Michael Tsicoulias (New England Revolution; Newton, Mass.), Griffin Yow (Virginia Development Academy; Clifton, Va.).
2003 Futures Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Pablo Andrade (Albion SC; Chula Vista, Calif.), Jackson Leavitt (Solar Chelsea SC; Allen, Texas), Andre Zuluaga (Kendall SC; Miami, Fla.).
DEFENDERS (6): Amir Acree (D.C. United; Washington, D.C.), Jack Anderson (New England Revolution; Holyoke, Mass.), Daniel Edelman (Players Development Academy; Warren, N.J.), Jakob Friedman (New York Red Bulls; Syosset, N.Y.), Noah Laureano (Arlington Soccer Association; Annandale, Va.), Michael Lenis (Weston, FC; Weston, Fla.)
MIDFIELDERS (18): Paxten Aaronson (Philadelphia Union; Medford, N.J.), Ethan Bellek (Colorado Storm; Timnath, Colo.), Cole Cruthers (Portland Timbers; Beaverton, Ore.), Alejandro De Villena (Atlanta United FC; Jefferson, Ga.), Christian Dominguez (World Class FC; Rock Tavern, N.Y.), Francisco Espinoza Jr. (Chicago Fire; Blue Island, Ill.), Anthony Hernandez (Crew SC Academy; Reynoldsburg, Ohio), Luke Hille Capital Area Railhawks - CASL; Cary, N.C.), Jack Jasinski (Charlotte Soccer Academy; Charlotte, N.C.), Ryan Kipness (New York City FC; Stamford, Conn.), Cole Mooney (Colorado Rapids; Colorado Springs, Colo.), Orlando Monroy (Sereno Soccer Club; Tempe, Ariz.), Kevin Paredes (D.C. United; South Ridge, Va.), Nicholas Pariano (Crew SC Academy Wolves; Ann Arbor, Mich.), Blake Pope (FC Dallas; Prosper, Texas), Noah Radecki (Beachside SC; New Canaan, Conn.), Aiden Semelsberger (Rio Rapids SC; Los Alamos, N.M.), Damon Smargon (San Diego Surf FC; San Diego, Calif.)
FORWARDS (5): Micah Cain (Philadelphia Union; Pottstown, Pa.), Peter Carriker (Seattle Sounders FC; Seattle, Wash.), Johnny Perez (LA Galaxy; Pico Rivera, Calif.), Mateo Stoka (Sockers FC; Fox Point, Wis.), Gavin Williams (Georgia United; Cumming, Ga.).