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U.S. U-20s face Mexico in bid to make World Cup

If they want to make the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the U.S. needs a win — or controlling their own destiny becomes near-impossible.

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Mexico’s U-20s celebrate at the 2016 MLS Homegrown Game.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not too often that you can say that the United States faces the Mexico with a World Cup spot on the line. You can say that today, though. The U.S. U-20s, by virtue of finishing second in their initial group, were placed in a difficult Classification Stage group.

After a much-discussed 1-0 loss to ten-man Panama to open the initial group, the U.S.’s road became more difficult. Should the U.S. fail to beat Mexico, making the World Cup would require a win over El Salvador — and even then, an El Salvador victory over Mexico in a three-team group could further muddy the waters.

With that in mind, the U.S. has it all to play for. A win would make it easier to qualify for the World Cup, and certainly, that’s the goal. A berth in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship final would simply be an added boost.

In 2015, these two teams faced off; Mexico then won 3-2. But that hasn’t deterred Real Salt Lake midfielder Sebastian Saucedo, whose loan to Veracruz in 2016 has given him a new confidence. In an interview with CONCACAF.com, Saucedo talked up his experience in Liga MX.

“I have played against a few of them. I played first team in Mexico,” said U.S. midfielder Sebastian Saucedo, who was loaned in 2016 from Real Salt Lake to Liga MX side Veracruz. “Most of them were playing U-20, so I’m ready to take on what’s next with the team.”

It’s entirely conceivable that four of Real Salt Lake’s five-strong contingent will start, with New Mexico right back Aaron Herrera the sole member of that group who’s likely to not start. But Justen Glad, Danilo Acosta, Sebastian Saucedo and Brooks Lennon have been near-constants for the U.S., and you can certainly expect them to appear from the outset.

In spite of that one major slip in the group stage, the U.S. has largely impressed. Saucedo has been a creative force, and he’s scored twice, but it’s Brooks Lennon who gets the biggest recognition here. He elevated the U.S. to victory in a 4-1 win over Haiti, with his hat trick proving the difference.

The match will be streamed on CONCACAF’s Facebook profile, where you can catch all the action. It kicks off at 2 p.m. Mountain.