PUEBLA, Mexico – US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati stressed on Thursday that while the CONCACAF U-20 Championship is important for US Soccer and the players involved, it’s not the end-all, be-all in judging youth development.
“These competitions are always a good barometer of where we are,” Gulati told MLSsoccer.com after US training on Thursday. “But they’re not the only barometer we have in terms of development. It can’t be the only barometer.”
Gulati pointed to the fact Argentina and Brazil didn’t qualify for the upcoming FIFA U-20 World Cup, even with the former enjoying home advantage, as evidence that slip-ups do happen.
Nevertheless, the aim is to get the US team qualified for the World Cup in Turkey and Gulati gave the gathered players a pep talk at the end of Thursday’s training, wishing them luck and emphasizing the significance of the competition to their fledgling careers.
“It’s an important first crack at getting to a world championship,” said Gulati of the current U-20 group.
There has been some talk about the number of Latino players in this US U-20 squad, with six starting the first game against Haiti.
The issue has been a constant theme in the US soccer media since Jurgen Klinsmann announced he would be looking to incorporate Latino players at the grassroots of the game in his first press conference as US coach.
It’s a difficult subject for Gulati, who is adamant that each individual coach picks their own players based on the specific needs of the squad.
“If we do well and there are a number of Latin players in the team, that’s great,” stated Gulati. “If we don’t do well, I don’t know what it tells us.”
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.