We're getting spoiled now...
A second Red Bull is officially in a major international tournament this January. Tim Cahill's inclusion in Asian Cup was long forecast and the first to be confirmed. Matt Miazga has now been verified as RBNY's second player to officially answer his nation's call for international duty this month.
Here is a look at what lies ahead for Miazga, and his team, at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Jamaica.
The CONCACAF U-20 Championship traces its history back to 1962, making it one of the region's oldest tournaments. Mexico is the dominant team at this level: 12 titles, including the inaugural competition in '62 and the most recent edition (2013). Canada, Costa Rica, and Honduras have each won two championships; El Salvador won a title back in 1964.
The USA has never won this tournament, though that is partially because the format didn't generate a true champion between 1998 and 2007. Since CONCACAF decided to let the U-20s play to a conclusion again (as opposed to just using it as a mechanism for determining World Cup qualifiers), the US team has twice finished second.
If the US U-20s can win this time around, it won't just be the first time the Stars and Stripes have been outright regional champions at this level, it will also be the first time the US has held the Men's, Women's and Men's U-20 regional titles at the same time.
Twelve teams are divided into two groups of six. The teams in each group play each other once. The winner of each group advances to the final. And the winner of that final will be the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Champion.
The tournament starts on January 9 and ends on January 24. Fox Sports 2 will screen USA games; foxsoccer2go.com will stream the rest of the tournament.
Both finalists qualify for the 2015 U-20 World Cup, which will be held in New Zealand from May 30 to June 20.
In order to find another two qualifiers for that tournament (CONCACAF will send four teams to New Zealand this summer), the teams finishing second and third in each group are put into a playoff. The four teams are ranked based on group record: the team with the best record will be drawn against that with the worst; the teams ranked second and third play each other; the winners of the two resulting playoff games get tickets to the U-20 World Cup.
The US U-20 Men's National Team
Head coach Tab Ramos has named a squad with not insignificant professional experience: all but two of the players selected are attached to pro teams. Matt Miazga will be the name of greatest interest to RBNY fans, but the presence of Russell Canouse and Amando Moreno on the roster speaks to the strength of the Red Bulls' academy's talent-spotting, as well as the difficulty of keeping young players in the MLS system.
Goalkeepers: Evan Horvath (Molde FK), Zack Steffen (SC Freiburg)
Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Conor Donovan (N.C. State), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Shaquell Moore (Unattached), John Requejo (Club Tijuana), Tyler Turner (Orlando City)
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Fernando Arce (Club Tijuana), Russell Canouse (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim), Junior Flores (Borussia Dortmund), Romain Gall (Columbus Crew), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham)
Evan Horvath was Molde's regular back-up 'keeper for most of 2014, watching his club run away with the Norwegian Tippeligaen title from the bench. Zack Steffen is the presumptive starter for the U-20s. The former Philadelphia Union academy prospect has just signed for Bundesliga club SC Freiburg after spending a couple of seasons at the University of Maryland.
Of the defenders, Cameron Carter-Vickers might be the most interesting prospect: the England-born dual-national has been aggressively courted by the US national team set-up since he was spotted at a youth tournament in December 2013. Since then, he's made appearances in U-18, U-20 and U-23 squads - he turned 17 on December 31, 2014. He is young (even by U-20 standards), highly rated, and expected to sign a pro contract with Tottenham Hotspur in the near future.
Conor Donovan just finished up his freshman season at NC State, and has the distinction of being the only active college player on the roster. Shaquell Moore is the son of former Trinidad and Tobago international Wendell Moore, a former US U-17 captain, and two-time nominee for US Soccer's Young Male Athlete of the Year award (2012 and 2013); his "unattached" status can be interpreted as a symptom of his long-stated ambition to turn pro in Europe. John Requejo is the latest beneficiary of Club Tijuana's apparently insatiable desire for American left backs (Edgar Castillo started the trend, Greg Garza is its present incarnation, Requejo can be presumed to be its future); he signed for Xolos in 2014, and has already made a couple of Copa MX appearances. Tyler Turner signed for Orlando City in 2014 and was a regular part of the team's USL Pro league-winning back line that conceded just 24 goals in 28 regular-season games; he will be part of OCSC's MLS squad in 2015.
Matt Miazga is, of course, a New York Red Bull, currently looking dangerously like a starter for the 20015 season (until or unless RBNY signs a center back to challenge for his position).
Kellyn Acosta is listed as a midfielder for the U-20s, but has been used mainly as a right back by FC Dallas over the past two MLS seasons, in which he has accumulated 28 regular-season appearances (including 20 starts) for a total of 1847 league minutes to date. California-born Fernando Arce is the son of Mexico international...um...Fernando Arce, and has made one Liga MX appearance for Tijuana (where his father played from 2011 to 2014) in his career to date.
Russell Canouse was once in the RBNY academy (part of the same cohort as Santiago Castano), but life took him to Germany, and Hoffenheim, where he has since turned pro. After a couple of years with Hoffenheim's U-19 team, he has been getting regular appearances for the reserve side this season.
Junior Flores is one of the highest-rated players in this squad; attached to Borussia Dortmund, he has mostly played for the U-19 team at club level so far this season. France-born Romain Gall spent time with the D.C. United and Real Salt Lake academies, but turned pro with FC Lorient in the country of his birth; he landed back in MLS this summer, signing for Columbus Crew. Sunderland has been the graveyard of American pro soccer dreams in recent years, but Lynden Gooch recently extended his contract with the club that has been monitoring his progress since he was 10 years old.
Over the last couple of seasons, Paul Arriola has made appearances for Club Tijuana in Liga MX, Copa MX and CONCACAF Champions League; he is arguably the most seasoned of the Tijuana contingent in this squad. Fellow Xolo, Amando Moreno is familiar to RBNY fans: he was a Red Bull until February 2014; he's picked up a couple of Copa MX appearances for the first team since moving to Tijuana.
Bradford Jamieson IV was a 2014 homegrown signing for LA Galaxy, and spent most of the season with the club's USL Pro side. Ben Spencer came up through the Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA academies, but turned pro with Molde FK in Norway (where he is a teammate of U-20 'keeper Evan Horvath); he was loaned to NASL team Indy Eleven for the 2014 season after making scant first-team appearances for Molde in 2013. Homegrown signing Tommy Thompson functioned as pretty much the only reason for San Jose Earthquakes fans to be cheerful about their 2014 season, though he has yet to score a first-team goal for the club.
All told, these 20 players add up to one of the tournament's favorites. Failure to secure a U-20 World Cup place would be a shock; absence from the final would be a surprise; becoming the first USA team to be CONCAF's U-20 champions is a clear ambition.
The US is in Group A, so that is the group we shall focus attention on.
Playing USA: January 9 @ 17:30 (Eastern)
Goalkeepers: Nicholas Hagen (Municipal/GUA), Julio Ochoa (Malacateco/GUA)
Defenders: Carlos Estrada (Malacateco/GUA), Kevin Grijalva (Comunicaciones/GUA), Cristian Jimenez (Municipal/GUA), Mauricio Maltes (Suchitepequez/GUA), Jose Morales (Municipal/GUA), Nicolas Samayoa (Gulf Coast University/USA), Allen Yanes (Achik/GUA)
Midfielders: Benedicto Aldana (Herediano/GUA), Diego Alvarez (Comunicaciones/GUA), Luis De Leon (Comunicaciones/GUA), Julio Ortiz (Comunicaciones/GUA), Stheven Robles (Comunicaciones/GUA), Andy Ruiz (FC Dallas/USA)
Forwards: Pablo Aguilar (University of Virginia/USA), Mario Hernandez (Municipal/GUA), Christopher Paolo Ortiz (Comunicaciones/GUA), Kevin Bordon (Comunicaciones/GUA), Mauro Portillo (Municipal/GUA)
The last of the qualifiers from the Central American zone (Guatemala claimed the fourth and final qualifying place on tiebreakers over Costa Rica) is the USA's first opponent in the group stage.
Tab Ramos's men will want to keep an eye on Mauro Portillo, the top scorer in the Central American qualifying tournament. He scored his first two league goals for his club, Municipal, this season - in the same game.
Playing USA: January 11 @ 17:30 (Eastern)
Goalkeepers: Pedro Campos (Sporting SM/PAN), Jaime de Gracia (Tauro FC/PAN)
Defenders: Jesus Araya (Tauro FC/PAN), Jomar Diaz (Tauro FC/PAN), Fidel Escobar (Sporting SM/PAN), Chin Hormechea (Arabe Unido/PAN), Michael Murillo (San Francisco FC/PAN), Fabian Salcedo (Sporting SM/PAN)
Midfielders: Justin Simons (Arabe Unido/PAN), Kevin Galvan (Sporting SM/PAN), Francisco Narbon (James Madison University/USA), Luis Pereira (Arabe Unido/PAN), Richard Rodriguez (San Francisco FC/PAN), Jhamal Rodriguez (Chorrillo FC/PAN), Edson Samms (San Francisco FC/PAN), Julian Velarde (Chorrillo FC/PAN)
Forwards: Ruben Barrow (Tauro FC/PAN), Ismael Diaz (Tauro FC/PAN), Carlos Small (Sporting SM/PAN), Ervin Zorrilla (Tauro FC/PAN)
Champions of Central America's qualifying tournament, Panama can be considered the first major test of USA's mettle in this tournament. After October's draw for the competitions, Tab Ramos identified the Panamanians as one of his side's key opponents.
The team includes 17-year-old Ismael Diaz, who scored a hat-trick in Panama's 3-0 warm-up win over El Salvador in December.
Playing USA: January 14 @ 17:30 (Eastern)
Goalkeepers: Jeanmarc Antersijn (VV Haaglandia/NED), Brandon Malmaceda (SV RCA/ARU)
Defenders: David Dubero (SV Estrella/ARU), Joel Geerman (SV Estrella/ARU), Carl Geerman (SV Britannia/ARU), Nickenson Paul (SV Dakota/ARU), Niels Ridderstap (FC Groningen/NED), Jefferson Vegas (Vitesse Delft/NED)
Midfielders: Walter Bennett (Elinkwijk/NED), Marcel Kock (SV Britannia/ARU), Franklin Ortiz Cabarcas (SV Dakota/ARU), Johnatan Ruiz (SV Britannia/ARU), Kevin Tromp (Hollandia/NED), Gregorio van der Biezen (USV Hercules/NED)
Forwards: Duncan Homoet (SV Estrella/ARU), Ricky Marte Hodge (SV Riverplate/ARU), Aidan Martha (VOAB/NED), Andrew Valois-Smith (Nacional/ARU), Jeanpierre van der Linden (SV RCA/ARU), Youri Wernet (SV Marum/NED)
An injury-time goal off a send-the-keeper-up-and-hope-something-happens set piece put Aruba into its very first U-20 Championship.
That goal may well be the high point of the team's campaign. Aruba beat Grenada, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Dominican Republic (with that last-gasp winner) to get to Jamaica, but the only two qualifying-tournament games against teams that will also be competing in the regional Championship (Haiti and Cuba) were lost.
Still, goalkeeper Jeanmarc Antersijn was named the Golden Glove winner of the Caribbean zone's CONCACAF U-20 qualifying tournament. If he can handle the undoubted pressure the better-fancied teams in Group A will put on his goal, perhaps Aruba can surprise an opponent or two.
Playing USA: January 18 @ 20:00 (Eastern)
Goalkeepers: Dane-Andrew Chambers (Harbour View FC/JAM), Oneel Lacey (Sporting Central/JAM), Nicholas Nelson (Georgia United/USA)
Defenders: Allando Brown (Jamaica College/JAM), Rennico Clarke (Harbour View FC/JAM), Joel Cunningham (Wolmers Boys/JAM), Shaquille Dyer (Arnett Gardens/JAM), Roberto Johnson (Portmore United/JAM), Christopher Lewis (GPS Massachusetts/USA), Malcolm Stewart (UNC Charlotte/USA), Javaun Waugh (Portmore United/JAM)
Midfielders: I'Ishmale Currie (Portmore United/JAM), Martin Davis (Harbour View FC/JAM), John Luca Levee (GPS Massachusetts/USA)
Forwards: Cardel Benbow (Waterhouse FC), Junior Flemmings (Tivoli Gardens FC/JAM), Shamar Nicholson (Boys Town/JAM), Daniel Roberts (Rivoli United FC/JAM), Michael Seaton (DC Uniited/USA), Khallil Stewart (College of Charleston/USA)
The hosts will have high hopes for this tournament, and if those hopes are to include a place in the final of the competition, they will likely need to beat the USA.
The squad is predominantly comprised of locally based players, complemented by a small delegation from US academies and colleges - plus D.C. United's Michael Seaton.
Cardel Benbow is a 19-year-old attacking midfielder for whom 2014 was a special year: he came home from a summer in NPSL to join Waterhouse FC, put in an impressive shift against D.C. United in CONCACAF Champions League, and subsequently won his first senior cap for his country.
Trinidad and Tobago
Playing USA: January 21 @ 17:30
Goalkeepers: Javon Sample (Central FC/TRI), Johan Welch (Houston Dynamo/USA)
Defenders: Leland Archer (College of Charleston/USA), Brandon Creed (Temple University/USA), Maurice Ford (W Connection/TRI), Jesus Perez (North East Stars/TRI), Martieon Watson (W Connection/TRI)
Midfielders: Aikim Andrews (San Juan Jabloteh/TRI), Akeem Garcia (W Connection/TRI), Levi Garcia (Central FC/TRI), Kevon Goddard (Central FC/TRI), Neveal Hackshaw (North East Stars/TRI), Akeem Humphrey (Club Sando/TRI), Jabari Mitchell (W Connection.TRI), Duane Muckett (University of South Florida/USA), Kishun Seecharan (Defence Force/TRI), Matthew Woo Ling (W Connection/TRI)
Forwards: Kadeem Corbin (St. Anns Rangers/TRI), Ricardo John (Virginia Tech/USA)
The T&T team has had a troubled build-up to the tournament: visa troubles saw half the squad stranded in Trinidad while its US-based contingent started a training camp in Florida. Nonetheless, this is considered a talented team: several players have got looks from European clubs; 17-year-old high-schooler Levi Garcia is thought to be on the verge of a move abroad.
Trinidad and Tobago won the Caribbean zone qualifying tournament (which it hosted) courtesy of a Kadeem Cordin hat-trick in the final (won, 3-0, against Haiti). Corbin claimed the competition's Golden Boot and MVP award.
Anyone else worth a look?
There is plenty of talent on show in the regional showcase tournament for the next generation of pros. Over in Group B, Canada has packed Cyle Larin - likely to be a high pick in the 2015 MLS Super Draft - for the trip. El Salvador's Bryan Tamacas visited Red Bull Arena in 2014, as an unused sub for CD FAS in CONCACAF Champions League.
The Honduran selection contains some of the more exciting attacking prospects in the region: Alberth Elis and Bryan Rochez have each got looks from the senior national team in 2014; Elis will likely pop up in the CCL quarterfinals for his club, Olimpia, and Rochez will be playing for Orlando City in MLS in 2015.
Also keep an eye out for Honduras's Junior Lacayo, currently in Santos Laguna's youth system but once (perhaps still - he's just been off the radar for a while) considered a more promising prospect than either Elis or Rochez.
Another player who may be about to make a big noise in CCL is Pachuca's Hirving Lozano, who is in Mexico's squad.
But Red Bulls fans may want to consider getting behind Haiti's Group B challenge. The Caribbean zone qualifying tournament runner-up has included Derrick Etienne Jr in its squad: a RBNY academy prospect who has been generating YouTube highlights from a young age.
What happens after the group stage?
The group winner advances to the final to play
Mexico the winner of Group B. Both finalists, and the winners of two playoff games between the teams placed second and third in each group, advance to the U-20 World Cup, scheduled to be held in New Zealand this summer.
Once A Metro will keep you informed of Matt Miazga's (and the US-20's) progress as the tournament unfolds.