- Ben McCormick

The United States U-20 National Team lost to Guatemala in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship and will not participate in this summer’s U-20 World Cup for the first time in eight tournaments.

Now take a deep breath. In…and out…

It’s not that big of a deal.

Consider this: among the nations who didn’t qualify for this summer’s World Cup are Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. The Dutch also missed out on the 2009 World Cup, along with Portugal and Argentina. Despite these top footballing nations missing out on the U-20 World Cup, none of them have compromised the integrity of their programs. The Dutch aren’t all of the sudden not going to produce top talent because they missed two tournaments, the Germans aren’t fading away after a top notch World Cup in South Africa, and Mexico won’t sink to the depths of CONCACAF (unfortunately). These things happen. America not qualifying for this summer’s tournament is just like all of those other countries missing out: a fluke.

That’s all it is. The USA played the host nation in front of their own raucous fans in a winner take all match and lost. Guatemala was inspired, and American players admitted they were looking ahead to Colombia instead of focusing on the task at hand. What’s important to remember is despite the disappointing team loss against Guatemala, nothing has changed about the individual prospects.

National teams at the youth level serve two purposes: exposure to the national team program, and exposure to clubs on the lookout for new young players. Regardless of whether or not the US qualified for the U-20 World Cup, the first purpose was served. The second wasn’t entirely necessary for this version of the U-20 team. Just to clarify, developing talent it IS NOT one of the purposes of the U-20 national team.

Who on this U-20 team is actively searching for a club to develop at? Unless the player is a collegian (i.e. Kelyn Rowe, Eder Arreola and Sebastian Ibeagha), they’re perfectly set for the foreseeable future. Rowe will get his European trials because of his play in the three matches, Arreola was already planning to trial abroad and Ibeagha could sign an academy contact with Houston at his earliest convenience. Everyone else on the team is already in a good place for their development. Players like Conor Doyle, Gale Agbossumonde and Bobby Wood arguably hurt their club situation by playing in the tournament, missing important time with the first team. Others like Sebastian Lletget (West Ham) and Joe Gyau (TSG Hoffenheim) are at big time clubs already, making club exposure a second thought. Most others are at MLS clubs where the reintroduction of the reserve league makes MLS a solid option for player development.

Not many players on the team needed club exposure, and those who did got enough of it.

The future for the U-20 team is still bright. Generally three or four players from any given U-20 team make serious contributions to the full national team, and from this cycle we could see five or more. World Cup or no World Cup, this age group for the Americans is as talented as it’s ever been.

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