There’s a common misperception that when a young talent moves overseas, he’s an automatic shoo-in for a youth national team call up.
And while players moving to prominent clubs outside the shores of the United States may always attract attention and headlines, with the recent improvement of the U.S. youth development, it’s not necessarily a given.
U.S. U20 coach Tab Ramos communicated as much to his players during the recently concluded U20 camp how the youth technical staff regards the quickly improving Development Academy system.
“I make it clear to all of them that we really value Academy soccer here and just because someone has signed overseas, it doesn’t necessarily mean an automatic ticket to the national team,” he told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “We will do our due diligence in terms of finding out what [players abroad] are doing, how much they’re playing, what their club thinks about them and how their development is coming along.”
This was reflected in Ramos’ last roster, as the former U.S. men’s national team midfielder continues to evaluate the U20 player pool. Of the 26 players, 10 came after a strong freshmen year in college, 10 from a professional background, and six still involved with Development Academy teams this spring.
And at this stage in the evaluation process it makes sense. But many of the current college players could end up as pros within the next year, be it through an MLS contract or a decision to head overseas.
That kind of a decision could end up increasing the chances of the particular player to standout at the U20 level, provided it’s the right destination that fosters development, a player on a pro team could be further along and more ready to contribute than his college-based counterpart.
“There’s no secret if we have a player at this point at a professional team, whether that’s MLS or overseas, and they’re training everyday with professional players and they’re getting to play games every weekend, and they’re in that type of environment, they’re much better off than the college guys who are not really training all the time and not always playing competitive games and that type of stuff,” Ramos said.
But playing in college isn’t going to rule a player out of the youth national team setup.
“What I like about the college players is that they’re used to structure, and they’re used to fighting all the time, and there are guys who know how to succeed,” Ramos said. “All the guys we’ve brought in here have done well as freshmen in college, and for them it has been a big jump from playing U-17/U-18 Academy to play as freshmen and actually contributing to good teams.”
And similar to his predecessor Thomas Rongen before, Ramos won’t rule out looking at American-eligible talent playing abroad either, as he keeps his ears open through contacts in Mexico and Europe.
“Sometimes we just hear about players, and sometimes it could start as easy as emails I get from agents and then we follow through with our scouts overseas,” Ramos said. “We have scouts in Germany, we have people we know in England and obviously people I know in Spain.”
U.S. U20 Men's National Team Roster At Recent Camp:
GOALKEEPERS: Tomas Gomez (Georgetown; Webster Groves, Mo.), Jesus Guzman (Santos Laguna; San Jose, Calif.), Kamil Kaminski (Legia Warszawa; Berlin, Conn.)
DEFENDERS: AJ Cochran (Wisconsin; St. Louis, Mo.), Christian Dean (California; East Palo Alto, Calif.), Mobi Fehr (Unattached; Tokyo, Japan), Eric Miller (Creighton; Woodbury, Minn.), Juan Pablo Ocegueda (UANL Tigres; Riverside, Calif.), Boyd Okwuonu (North Carolina; Edmund, Okla.), Javan Torre (LA Galaxy Academy; Santa Monica, Calif.) Walker Zimmerman (Furman; Lawrenceville, Ga.)
MIDFIELDERS: Seth Casiple (California; Rocklin, Calif.), Daniel Cuevas (Santos Laguna; Sacramento, Calif.), Matthew Dunn (OFK Beograd; Dallas, Texas), Daniel Garcia (FC Dallas Academy; Dallas, Texas), Alejandro Guido (Unattached; Chula Vista, Calif.), Benji Joya (Santos Laguna; San Jose, Calif.), Mikey Lopez (North Carolina; Mission, Texas), Collin Martin (D.C. United Academy; Chevy Chase, Md.), Daniel Metzger (Maryland; Staten Island, N.Y.), Victor Pineda (Chicago Fire; Bollingbrook, Ill.)
FORWARDS: Villyan Bijev (Fortuna Düsseldorf; Fresno, Calif.), Alfred Koroma (Solar Chelsea SC; Southlake, Texas), Sean Okoli (Wake Forest; Federal Way, Wash.), Andrew Oliver (Chicago Fire Academy; Indianapolis, Ind.), Omar Salgado (Vancouver Whitecaps; El Paso, Texas)