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Quinn Sullivan Philadelphia Union 2022Getty Images

'I’m getting fired up!' - Bitter dispute over releasing USMNT prospects for U20 World Cup intensifies

  • Galaxy join Chicago in potential WC rejection
  • Other coaches and players furious
  • Tournament begins this month

WHAT HAPPENED? The Chicago Fire ignited debate last week when they announced Chris Brady and Brian Gutierrez would not be allowed to play in the U20 World Cup in Argentina, which begins for the United States on May 20. Shortly after that decision and Croatian club Hajduk Split's choice not to release Rokas Pukstas, Philadelphia Union coach Jim Curtin emphatically said his own youngsters would be permitted to participate - and criticised teams that took a different approach. The Union are among MLS' top player development clubs, boasting youngsters such as Quinn Sullivan (pictured above) and Jack McGlynn.

“Think about the kids - and I’m getting fired up - this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they may never get back again,” Curtin told reporters last week. “To prevent them from playing in a U20 World Cup? I’m sorry, I don’t agree with it.”

AND WHAT'S MORE: Now, the Fire and LA Galaxy have further explained their own skeptical approaches to the U20 World Cup while Atlanta United and the San Jose Earthquakes have publicly taken the other side.

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WHAT THEY SAID: “Sometimes there are moments in life where you have a choice between a bad solution and a bad solution,” Fire sporting director Georg Heitz told The Athletic. “This is one of those moments. My job is to defend the interests of the Chicago Fire, to defend the interests of our coaching staff and, of course, the players. There you see the problem - it’s a conflict of interest. The strongest argument not to let them go is the schedule. We have so many games in May, and we need these players. They are pillars in this team, we’re speaking about our No. 1 goalkeeper and our playmaker.”

LA Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney took a middle ground, suggesting to The Athletic that he would release some youngsters but maybe not defender Jalen Neal if the team needs him in its backline. Vanney added: “If the player is playing a huge role in the team in a professional league - against adult men in first divisions where there’s pressure on the standings - are you willing to release a player playing a significant role inside your team? There are different beliefs on that. In most places around the world, if a young player is playing, a lot would say no. There’s a reason why FIFA doesn’t make this mandatory (to release players). A club has to reflect on that.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Atlanta and San Jose, meanwhile, agree with Curtin that MLS clubs should cooperate with U.S. Soccer and release players under almost any circumstance. Decision-makers for each organization told The Athletic that stars Caleb Wiley and Cade Cowell are allowed to go to the tournament.

“It’s kind of shocking that I see some of the guys I know not being released, and it sucks,” Wiley said. “I’m super thankful the club released me to represent my country. This is something that doesn’t happen often. For me to be able to go to Argentina, it’s special.”


Caleb Wiley Atlanta United MLS 2023GettyCade Cowell Earthquakes 2023Getty ImagesCurtin Union 2022Getty

WHAT NEXT? U.S. Soccer has yet to reveal the decisions from several more clubs, including Eintracht Frankfurt (Paxten Aaronson) and Wolfsburg (Kevin Paredes). Those should be announced in the coming days.

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