It’s tempting to think of the USA U-20 World Cup team as the USA men’s national team for the near future, especially after the young Americans knocked off France last week.

The team’s quarterfinal Saturday against Ecuador (FS2, 10:20 a.m.) gives the USA a chance to defeat South America’s reigning youth champions. But it’s worth remembering that only a handful of players from this team will eventually become the core of the national side.

Take the 2007 squad, which defeated Brazil (with Marcelo) and Uruguay (with Luis Suarez). Future national team striker Jozy Altidore scored four goals at the tournament to lead the USA, and future midfield stalwart Michael Bradley scored the extra-time winner against Uruguay.

– and by Freddy Adu, the most famous soccer flameout in United States history.

A few other players from that team, including Robbie Rogers, Dax McCarty and Sal Zizzo, have had successful MLS careers. Most, though, fizzled out somewhere in the transition from being a youth standout to a successful pro. The more players from this year’s team who make the leap, the stronger the national team will be. But excitement about the current team aside, only a few will eventually get there.

Short takes

• Soccer’s newest round of rule changes are now in effect, though MLS— now in mid-season — will delay making them until the end of the year. The biggest change is a rewrite of the handball rule, which, of course, is just as unclear as the previous rule. Expect to hear a lot about the rule’s phrase “making the body unnaturally bigger,” as well as endless instant replays trying to interpret just what “unnaturally bigger” even means.

• Speaking of instant replay, the new system reached a low point in the African Champions League final. The referee disallowed a goal by Moroccan side Wydad Casablanca for offside, incorrectly. The VAR system malfunctioned as referees tried to check. Wydad protested the match, then forfeited. This came after the match’s first leg, when the referee was suspended for making two incorrect decisions despite using VAR.


Women’s World Cup: England vs. Scotland, 11 a.m. Sunday, Ch. 9. The very first international soccer match was England-Scotland, in 1872, a 0-0 draw in Glasgow. Scotland would probably take the same result in this game as well, as the English are favored. Scotland, though, has had a good run recently, including victories against Brazil and Denmark. Can it put a dent in England’s hopes? Or will England make a statement in this game?


Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. E-mail: