With the announcement of the Concacaf Under-20 Championship coming to IMG Academy from Nov. 1-21, U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team head coach and Youth Technical Director Tab Ramos spoke with ussoccer.com about the announcement of the tournament and how the player pool will prepare for the FIFA U-20 World Cup qualification tournament.
ussoccer.com: The Concacaf U-20 Championship is returning to the United States for the first time since 2005, when the U.S. co-hosted with Honduras. How advantageous will it be to play on home soil, at a familiar site to the Youth National Teams?
Tab Ramos: “Playing on our home soil makes it much easier to not have to adapt to unpredictable weather, food, altitude or different types of surfaces.”
ussoccer.com: The 2018 tournament marks one of the fastest turn-arounds from the end of the previous cycle's U-20 World Cup. What are the biggest challenges to preparing a cycle of players in such a compact amount of time?
Tab Ramos: “It is a more difficult challenge as we started this cycle later than others in the past. This time our preparation will go from being 18 months and eight or nine camps to 10 months and five camps. Generally most players are only able to attend about half the camps, so there will not be much contact with the core players. There could potentially be players at the qualifying tournament who will be playing for us for the first time in this cycle.”
ussoccer.com: How many opportunities will there be to bring the U-20 group together between now and the start of the tournament?
Tab Ramos: “There will just be two camps between now and November. The calendar for our players is very full. Also, there is the added hurdle that the tournament falls in the middle of conference tournaments and NCAA playoffs for our college players.”
ussoccer.com: Despite having limited opportunities to bring the group together, what do you like about the group so far? Which players have done well to fit into the style of play and team characteristics you are building?
Tab Ramos: “We have very competitive, technical players in this country, players who are committed to playing hard for the National Team. This particular group is skillful and will represent us well. As always, we will be hoping that we are able to secure releases for a couple difference makers who can make us a stronger, deeper team. In a long tournament like this one, it will likely be important. Players who have lead the way so far include Brady Scott, Matthew Real, Mark McKenzie, Richie Ledezma, Andrew Carleton, Justin Rennicks, Jonathan Amon and Manny Perez, but all players have stepped up when given the opportunity.”
ussoccer.com: Heading into your fourth tournament as head coach, the 2018 rendition is also the fourth time you’ve faced a change to the tournament's structure. How does facing a 34-team field change the way you prepare?
Tab Ramos: “It will be something that all teams will have to adapt to. My only concern is our team and working with clubs between now and then to be able to get player releases. We will also be defending champions for the first time. I would like to think that being champions is not an accident. We always want to be champions.”
ussoccer.com: As the Men's National Team Transitions to a new generation of players, will the likes of Tyler Adams, Josh Sargent and Tim Weah be a part of this qualifying group? Would their absence open opportunities for other players?
Tab Ramos: “This will depend on our philosophy as a federation moving forward. I always welcome the chance to give new players opportunities.”
ussoccer.com: When you reflect on all the qualifying tournaments you have been a part of as a player, assistant coach and head coach, what are you most looking forward to for this tournament?
Tab Ramos: “As a highly competitive former player and now as a highly competitive coach, I always look forward to the must-win games. The games that make all your sweat, suffering and preparation worth it.”Read more