Argentina is set to host the U-20 World Cup after replacing Indonesia as the tournament’s host and participant just over a month ago. The replacement came after Indonesia’s opposition to hosting the Israeli team delayed FIFA’s decision to change the venue. The South American nation, which is still celebrating Lionel Messi and his national team’s victory in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, will host the sport’s most promising young talents in four cities.
The 24 participating teams and football’s international governing bodies breathed a sigh of relief after a dramatic race to the start line. Defending champions Ukraine will not participate due to war, leaving England, Brazil, and Senegal as favorites. Argentina, a record six-time champion, initially failed to qualify, but FIFA granted them a spot as tournament hosts.
Clubs had to approve contract players to be selected for the U-20 World Cup, and many talented young footballers called in by coaches did not participate because they were not allowed. England brings their 2022 U-19 European title-winning squad, while Uruguay, who finished runners-up in the South American Championship earlier this year, will be the main rivals for the top spot in Group E. Brazil, who have won the tournament five times, cannot field two players.
The top two teams from each of the six groups and the top four third-place teams will advance to the Round of 16. The United States will face tough opponents in Group B, starting with Ecuador on Saturday and Slovakia on May 26. Currently, European teams have won the last four U-20 World Cups.
The tournament promises to showcase some of football’s most promising young talent, including Argentinian coach Javier Mascherano’s team, who are looking to follow in the footsteps of the 2001 team and win the title on home turf. Meanwhile, players like 16-year-old Ecuadorian striker Kendry Paez, who is expected to join Chelsea in 2025, and winger Samba Diallo from Senegal are being touted as ones to watch.