-Ben McCormick

The United States U-20 national team is starting its latest World Cup cycle a little early this year. Attention is shifting from Colombia across the Atlantic to Turkey, the site of the 2013 U-20 World Cup. After the shocking results in Guatemala, fans are asking a lot of questions about the next U-20 cycle. Will the 2013 squad succeed where the 2011 team failed? Can they make a run into the knockout rounds in Turkey?

Though 2013 is a long way off, next month will see first gathering of the next cycle. Over the next two years, many players will come and go in the squad before a final team is decided in 2013. Here is a look at some of the players you can expect to see frequently over the next two years and (hopefully) in Turkey.

Fabian Huerzeler (Bayern Munich)- The FC Hollywood youngster would have been a key man in Rongen’s squad at the 2011 CONCACAF U-20 Championship had it not been for his final exams. The youngest member of Munich’s reserve squad, Huerzeler is a talented midfielder who could star in Rongen’s 4-3-3 system. The issue with Huerzeler is the necessity to file the one-time FIFA international switch to represent the United States in 2013, something he has no reason to do until that time should Germany come calling. Any unofficial tournaments or camps before that, however, he is eligible for with his current status.

Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake)- The creative midfielder was arguable the best American at the 2009 U-17 World Cup. Only 16 at the time, Gil showed poise and awareness beyond his years. He joined RSL last season and has seen increased minutes since he debuted in the CONCACAF Champions League last November, including an eleven minute sub appearance against New England on April 9. His touch and flair have caught the attention of a couple respectable European clubs (see Arsenal and Real Madrid), and he should feature prominently over the next two years for the U-20 team.

Charles Renken (TSG Hoffenheim)- The final midfielder I’ll mention is Charles Renken, who of these three may have the most potential. At one time, Renken was coveted by Arsenal while directing the U-17 offense at the tender age of 14. Unfortunately, Renken was struck by two serious knee injuries, leaving people to question if he could ever play again. Two years later, he is now at Hoffenheim full-time, and appears to be back on track toward a promising career. Look for his name to be on many U-20 rosters these next two years.

Cody Cropper (Ipswich Town FC)- The English-American goalkeeper backed up Zach MacMath in Guatemala although he nearly nabbed the starting spot himself. The tall backstop recently began seeing time with the Ipswich reserves and appears well on his way to a successful professional career. Given his success in the last cycle, Cropper should be between the sticks for the U-20s for the foreseeable future.

Omar Salgado (Vancouver Whitecaps FC)- American fans saw a healthy dose of Salgado in Guatemala and should see him early and often this next cycle. He’s developing into an excellent forward option at Vancouver, and his size and touch might see him leave MLS sooner than later. The ex-Chivas de Guadalajara player will be depended upon for goals in the next cycle.

Sean Cunningham (Molde FK)- There is an 18 year old American playing left back in a respected European league. Before you get too excited, realize it’s far too early to tell if Cunningham is the shoe insert that will subdue America’s Achilles heel. That being said, the staff at Molde seem to like him quite a bit. He has been making the bench for Molde consistently and should see time on the pitch soon enough.

Other players to look for by position:

Goalkeeper: Jon Kempkin (Sporting KC)

Defenders: Danny Potts (West Ham), Will Packwood (Birmingham City), John Anthony Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Juan Pablo Ocegunda (Tigres)

Midfielders: Matthew Dunn (FC Koln), Victor Pineada (Chicago Fire), Marc Pelosi (Bradenton Residency), Alejandro Guido (Bradenton)

Forwards: Jonathan Top (FC Dallas), Jack McBean (LA Galaxy), Jerome Kiesewatter (Hertha Berlin), Mario Rodriguez (Bradenton), Alfred Koroma (Bradenton)

The 2013 U-20 cycle is under a lot of pressure from US Soccer to redeem the failure of the 2011 team. Building on a Renken-Huerzeler-Gil midfield, the 2013 team has the potential to not only get the US back to the top of CONCACAF at the youth level, but also make some noise in Turkey.

Only time will tell.

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