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Latin American influence helps USA shine at the Under-20 World Cup

The USYNT face New Zealand in the round of 16 having won all three group matches without conceding a goal.

Bryan Arellano
Estados Unidos
Estados Unidos asegura su clasificación a octavos de final
Twitter @USYNT

Take a look at the roster of any United States national team and you’re likely to see a number of players with surnames of Latin American origin, a trend which is on the rise. And it has rarely been more notable that at the Under-20 World Cup in Argentina, where the Stars and Stripes excelled in the group stage.

USYNT’s perfect record in the Under-20 World Cup group stage

The USYNT cruised through to the knockout rounds thanks to three wins out of three against Ecuador, Fiji and Slovakia, keeping clean sheets in each game. And the likes of Obed Vargas, Jonathan Gómez and Diego Luna have been amongst the standout performers. As pointed out in a report by EFE, more and more players with Latin American heritage are becoming involved at every level of American soccer.

At the very top, there are more than 200 players from Latin America, with Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia the most represented countries. However, the biggest impact at international level has been made by the children of parents who had previously moved from Latin America to the United States.

Several USYNT U-20 World Cup stars of Latin American descent

The Under-20 World Cup roster contains six players with Latin American heritage. All of them were born north of the Rio Grande, with the exception of goalkeeper Antonio Carrera, who was born in Pachuca in Mexico but started his career in the FC Dallas youth academy and has US citizenship.

USMNT or Mexico?

One of the first names on the team sheet is Jonathan Gómez, who plays for Real Sociedad’s B team in Spain and was the goalscoring hero in the first group game in Argentina, volleying in the only goal against Ecuador in injury time. Goméz was born in Texas to Mexican parents and was coveted by both nations he was eligible to play for. Mexico failing to qualify for the tournament made his decision that bit easier.

Other players of Mexican descent who have also featured are Diego Luna, who plays in the number 10 role, and San Jose Earthquakes striker Cade Cowell.

Luna is a player considered to have huge potential and has been tracked by a whole host of clubs. He is currently signed to Real Salt Lake and has dual Mexican-American nationality.

Cowell’s mother is Mexican but the attacker already appears to have made up his mind about where his allegiances lie, in international soccer terms. The 19-year-old has played for a number of different age-group teams and has even appeared for the USMNT.

The parents of Obed Vargas were both born in Michoacán, unlike the Seattle Sounders midfielder, who was born in Anchorage, Alaska. The teenager has admitted that he has been torn about which country to pledge his future to, as he always watched the Mexico national team growing up. However, he has also stressed his gratitude to the United States for putting their faith in him. “It is a difficult decision to make. I still don’t know”, he agonised when asked in 2022.

Connections to other Latin American countries

Kevin Paredes is the one player on the USYNT roster who has connections to another Latin American countries. The left-back’s parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the United States, where he grew up and spent two years at DC United before making the move to Wolfsburg in Germany.

And last but certainly not least is head coach Mikey Varas, who was born in San Francisco but is of Chilean descent. He took charge of the team in November 2021 and led them to victory in the 2022 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship, which enabled them to book their spots at the World Cup and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

USYNT in contention for glory at Under-20 World Cup

The USYNT have established themselves as a contender to win the Under-20 World Cup as a result of their excellent showing in the group stage. They will now take on New Zealand in the round of 16 and will fancy their chances of progressing to the quarter-finals, the stage at which they have been eliminated in the last three tournaments.