HERRIMAN, Utah (Thursday, May 25, 2023) - The United States U-20 Men’s Youth National Team has a chance to earn a top Round of 16 seed with a result against Slovakia in the final Group B match on Friday, May 26 at 12:00 p.m. MT in San Juan, Argentina.
The United States defeated Fiji 3-0 this past Tuesday, securing a spot in the knockouts. Young Real Salt Lake starlet Diego Luna shined bright in the victory, entering the match as a halftime substitute and scoring what proved to be the game-winner and knockout clincher with a 66th-minute goal and adding an assist on the second score. In 18 matches for the Stars and Stripes, Luna now has five goals and six assists.
Coming on as a halftime substitute, Luna brought the clinical finish the U.S. had been lacking in the first half. RSL’s ‘Moon Boy’ played a centering pass to Cade Cowell, who took a touch and was knocked to the ground, losing possession. Luna pounced on the trickling ball and instinctively curled a right-footed shot around the Fijian goalkeeper Aydin Mustahi, putting the Red, White and Blue in front.
Twelve minutes later, Luna set up Cowell for the second goal of the match, controlling an aerial pass and laying it off for the Earthquakes winger to whip it past Mustahib. Caleb Wiley provided the finishing touches on the 3-0 win, collecting a rebound off the post and tapping it in.
The United States opened the tournament last Saturday with a 1-0 win against Ecuador, thanks to a stoppage-time goal from Jonathan Gómez. Luna had a solid 89-minute performance in the victory, flashing his dribbling abilities and showing off his creativity in the final third, narrowly missing an open net from distance with an audacious outside-of-the-right-boot effort after dispossessing the ‘keeper.
Slovakia arrives at Friday’s match on three points, with a win over Fiji and a loss to Ecuador. A win or draw for the United States would guarantee a first-place finish in Group B. If the United States lose to Slovakia by a significant goal difference and Ecuador beats Fiji, there is a possibility the U.S. could finish third in the group based on various tiebreaker scenarios, but would advance to the Round of 16 as one of the top four third-place finishers in the tournament with their berth already clinched.
The game will be available on FS2, Universo, and Telemundo (see USSoccer.com for more details).
The Round of 16 will take place from next Tuesday-Thursday, May 30-June 1, with the Quarterfinals on the weekend of June 3-4. The FIFA U-20 World Cup Semifinals will be played on Thursday, June 8, with the Final on Sunday, June 11 at La Plata Stadium. The United States entered the tournament as favorites to get out of the group stage, having fallen as one of eight quarterfinalists in the last three U-20 World Cups. The U-20 U.S. MYNT won the 2022 CONCACAF Championship en route to qualification, defeating the Dominican Republic 6-0 in the final.