The U.S. Under-23 men's national team may have failed to qualify for the Olympics, but a U.S. youth national team will still get exposure to an international tournament this summer.
The 2012 Milk Cup kicks off in Northern Ireland Saturday, with the U.S. Under-20 men's national team opening play against defending champion Denmark. The competition can be seen as a springboard for some players hoping to leave their mark as the 2013 U-20 World Cup cycle continues. For example, the United States won the title in 2010 with a roster that included the likes of Juan Agudelo, Zac MacMath, Zarek Valentin, Greg Garza and Omar Salgado.
This group of U.S. U-20s, guided by coach Tab Ramos, will face Turkey on Monday, followed by a playoff match on July 26 that is contingent on how they fare in the opening two games. Other teams taking part in the tournament are Mexico, Chile and host Northern Ireland.
Between injuries and club commitments, Ramos does not have his full complement of U-20s available, but he has assembled a roster of 18 players competing at the academy, collegiate and professional level. As a refresher, here is the squad that Ramos has brought with him for the tournament, along with the full schedule:
U.S. U-20 MILK CUP ROSTER
GOALKEEPERS: Cody Cropper (Unattached; Athens, Ga.), Kendall McIntosh (Santa Clara; Santa Clara, Calif.)
DEFENDERS: AJ Cochran (Wisconsin; St. Louis, Mo.), Holden Fender (Concorde Fire; Marietta, Ga.), Eric Miller (Creighton; Woodbury, Minn.), Juan Pablo Ocegueda (UANL Tigres; Riverside, Calif.), Boyd Okwuonu (North Carolina; Edmund, Okla.), Walker Zimmerman (Furman; Lawrenceville, Ga.)
MIDFIELDERS: 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.), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids Academy; Brighton, Colo.), Wil Trapp (Akron; Gahanna, Ohio)
FORWARDS: Daniel Cuevas (Santos Laguna; Sacramento, Calif.), Alfred Koroma (Solar Chelsea SC; Southlake, Texas), Victor Pineda (Chicago Fire; Bolingbrook, Ill.), Mario Rodriguez (1. FC Kaiserslautern; North Hollywood, Calif.)
MILK CUP SCHEDULE (all times Eastern)
USA vs. Denmark, 2 p.m.
Mexico vs. Turkey, 2 p.m.
Northern Ireland vs. Chile, 2 p.m.
USA vs. Turkey, 3 p.m.
Mexico vs. Northern Ireland, 3 p.m.
Denmark vs. Chile, 3 p.m.
Playoffs, Championship match
Which U.S. players do you expect to see stand out during this tournament? How do you see the U.S. U-20s faring?
Share your thoughts below.