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Rokas Pukstas Hajduk Split 2022-23Getty

USMNT's highly-touted Rokas Pukstas blocked from U20 World Cup as U.S. Soccer hit with new disappointment ahead of big tournament

  • Pukstas has won plaudits in Croatia
  • But Hajduk refuse to release him for tournament
  • Fellow wonderkids Gutierrez and Brady also missing

WHAT HAPPENED? Former Barcelona youth star Pukstas left to join Hajduk Split and has already been compared to Dani Olmo, such has been his level of performance. He is a first-team player at 18, but with Hajduk set to play Sibenik in the Croatian Cup final, they have refused to let him go to the U20 World Cup where he was set to play a big role.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: The USMNT have run into a number of stumbling blocks as they attempt to assemble their squad for the U20 World Cup. The Chicago Fire, for example, have already confirmed that neither Brian Gutierrez or Chris Brady will be allowed to play. One wonderkid, Paxten Aaronson, is expected to be playing, as Eintracht Frankfurt are set to release him to his international squad.

WHAT THEY SAID?: Mindaugas Nikolicius, Hajduk's sporting director, explained the decision not to release Pukstas to Hajduk.HR: "We received the invitation from the U.S. Football Association on April 23, and since then we have been considering our decision and finally made it in agreement with the player and the association, who understand the fact that Rokas is a standard first-team player. He is very important for us at the end of this season and will remain with the team so that he can participate in the last four league games and in the final of the Croatian Cup."

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Pukstas won't be teaming up with fellow wonderkids such as Paxten Aaronson, a real shame for fans of the Stars and Stripes..

Paxten Aaronson United States youth teamGetty Images

WHAT NEXT FOR THE USMNT? The USMNT U20 side kick off their World Cup campaign on May 20 with a game against Ecuador. They will also play Fiji and Slovakia in their group.

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