The goal of a youth national team is simple: to push players toward the senior team. However, even in the best of cases, everyone knows that only a few select players from any age-group will ever truly make an impact at the senior level.
Because of that, projecting the future of an Under-20 team is quite difficult. They're much closer to the senior level than say, the U17s, but, at the end of the day, the hope is that three, maybe four, of the players involved can become legitimate senior contributors. If you do that every time, your pipeline is in good shape, with each ageing generation being replaced by a younger one on the conveyor belt.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this summer is the first time in four years that teams have gathered for an U20 World Cup. And, because of that, we're blessed with a bit of hindsight when it comes to the U.S. team that competed in the 2019 tournament in Poland.
That team, famously, defeated France in the last 16 before falling to Ecuador in the quarter-final. It's also a team that provided something of a backbone for the senior squad that competed at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. In total, 11 players that featured that summer have earned senior USMNT caps, but a few have actually taken their talents elsewhere.
Where are they now, and how many of the 2019 U.S. U20s have truly made a difference in the years since? GOAL takes a look...