For the fourth cycle in a row, the United States will be taking part in the U20 World Cup after a 4-0 win over Costa Rica in the CONCACAF U20 Championship on Friday night.
Philadelphia Union teammates Matthew Real and Mark McKenzie helped lead the defense to a third straight clean sheet and two LA Galaxy Academy alums Alex Mendez and Ulysses Llanez provided the fireworks in the first half with goals inside 20 minutes. Juan Pablo Torres and Toronto FC forward Ayo Akinola added goals in the second half.
Mendez’s goal came off a pretty line-splitting pass from McKenzie.
WHAT. A. RIP.— U.S. Soccer YNT (@ussoccer_ynt) November 17, 2018
Alex Mendez fires from 30 yards away to give the a 1-0 lead vs. ! pic.twitter.com/BKgoXTFlvT
Real wore the captain’s armband for the fourth time in the competition, which has been a resounding success on both sides of the ball for the Yanks.
Through six games, the U.S. has put together a staggering +41 in goal differential (outscoring opponents 43-2), a stat that may be as much an implication of the competitiveness of the competition as it is a testimony to the talent in the current U.S. youth international pool.
Seven of those goals have come from Philadelphia Union players — McKenzie has three and Anthony Fontana had four before being replaced on the roster after the group stage.
While a berth in the U20 World Cup in Poland, which begins in late May, is now assured, the U.S. team is still two wins away from defending their CONCACAF championship from 2017. They’ll play Honduras on Monday with a chance to return to the final for the fourth time in six two-year cycles.