Young players are the best thing the U.S. men’s national team has going for it, and this week the next wave of young USA players will be in the spotlight in the U-20 World Cup. The every-other-year tournament includes what might be the best-ever American squad.
For one thing, the migration of young American players to Europe is on full display. Eleven of the 21 players are based in Europe, highlighted by center back Chris Richards, an FC Dallas product who’s made the move to Bayern Munich. This USA squad also has members who are currently training at European giants such as Barcelona (forward Konrad de la Fuente), Paris Saint-Germain (winger Tim Weah, who’s already played for the full national team, and Ajax (defender Sergino Dest).
Keep an eye on midfielder Alex Mendez, the breakout star of last year’s CONCACAF U-20 Championship. Mendez scored eight goals in eight matches, including both of the goals in the USA’s title-game victory against Mexico. Another player to watch is midfielder Paxton Pomykal, who’s enjoying a sterling start to the season with FC Dallas.
The USA lost its first game of the tournament on Friday, 2-1 to Ukraine. Some dazzling attacking talent was on display, but the USA was undone by some basic defensive errors and some poor offensive decision-making. The young Americans need positive results in two group-stage games left if they are to progress in the tournament.
• FIFA is rightly criticized for its mystifying selection of tournament hosts, but UEFA made its own blunder this year by selecting Baku, Azerbaijan as the host of Wednesday’s Europa League final. Thanks to a political conflict between Azerbaijan and neighboring Armenia, Arsenal attacker and Armenian national Henrikh Mkhitaryan won’t be playing. Fans of Armenian descent have had their travel visas denied. How could UEFA have scheduled a marquee game in a country where all its players and fans aren’t welcome?
• An analysis of 2017-18 Premier League revenues, published this week in the Guardian, paints a stark picture of the league’s financial disparity. The “big six” teams are all in fine shape but seven of the other 14 clubs racked up losses. Not one of the bottom 14 had more than £189 million in revenue. The smallest of the big six, Tottenham, clocked in at £381 million. It seems like in reality, the top six and the other 14 are all but separate leagues.
Liga MX: Tigres at León, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Univision. This is the second leg of the league championship and León — the dominant team of the spring half-season in Mexico — has plenty of work left to do. León not only won the league, it scored the most goals, allowed the fewest goals and — in winger Ángel Mena — boasts the league’s leading goal-scorer. After the first leg, though, always-powerful Tigres leads León 1-0. Tigres, with three championships in the last four years, knows how to win when it counts.
Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org