Arquímides Ordóñez, Xavier Valdez headline MLS NEXT Pro representatives at FIFA U-20 World Cup

Arquimides Ordonez

The FIFA U-20 World Cup kicks off this weekend with several of the world’s best youngsters set to square off in Argentina. 

Several familiar faces from MLS NEXT Pro’s Class of 2022 and new faces of 2023 will be representing their countries with hopes of lifting the trophy by tournament’s end. Arquímides Ordóñez, Xavier Valdes, and Jay Herdman are just a handful of players that will be seeking strong tournament runs with their national teams. 

Here is a closer look at which MLS NEXT Pro players you should keep an eye on during the FIFA U-20 World Cup:

Arquímides Ordóñez
Forward · FC Cincinnati 2

One of the rising talents within MLS NEXT Pro and Concacaf as a whole, Arquímides Ordóñez heads to Argentina on great form. 

Ordóñez is tied for second for the MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot lead with six goals, and has netted his first-career U.S. Open Cup goal for FC Cincinnati this season. The 19-year-old forward has contributed five goals in six appearances for Guatemala’s U-20 national team and has already earned two caps for the senior team.

Ordóñez enjoyed a strong run at last summer’s Concacaf U-20 Championship and will be one of Guatemala’s key leaders during the tournament.

Xavier Valdez
Goalkeeper · Houston Dynamo 2

Xavier Valdez was one of the top goalkeepers during MLS NEXT Pro’s inaugural season in 2022 and he will now be fighting to deliver a strong tournament run with the Dominican Republic. 

Valdez started in three matches for the Dominicans at the Concacaf U-20 Championship last summer and since has made five MLS NEXT Pro appearances in 2023 for Houston Dynamo 2. The 19-year-old is already a promising shot-stopper at club level and could translate that over to the senior team with a positive string of matches in Argentina.

Jay Herdman
Midfielder · Whitecaps FC 2

18-year-old Jay Herdman has excelled for Whitecaps FC 2 so far in MLS NEXT Pro, but now the focus for the young midfielder turns to the international stage. 

Herdman, the son of current Canada men’s national team head coach Jay, has made six league appearances for Whitecaps FC 2, scoring one goal and adding one assist. After previously making two appearances for Canada’s U-20 team in 2022, Herdman has since scored two goals in two appearances for New Zealand.

Antonio Carrera
Goalkeeper · North Texas SC

One of several familiar faces in the U.S. Under-20 player pool, goalkeeper Antonio Carrera will be fighting to start in Argentina.  

The 19-year-old has made five appearances for North Texas SC this season, registering one clean sheet. Carrera earned most of the opportunities during the 2022 MLS NEXT Pro campaign, helping NTX reach the inaugural playoffs. 

Although Chelsea’s Gabriel Slonina is also on the United States’ roster, Carrera does have more familiarity in Mikey Varas’ squad.

Edison Azcona
Midfielder · Inter Miami II

One of Inter Miami’s up-and-coming prospects, Edison Azcona is a key player for the Dominican Republic. 

The 19-year-old has scored four goals in six U-20 appearances for the Dominicans. He has also featured three times apiece for the Dominican Republic’s senior and Under-23 squads to date. 

Azcona’s versatility could see him used in the No. 10 role or out wide in Walter Benitez’s set-up.

Geremy Rodas
Midfielder · MNUFC2

Geremy Rodas has enjoyed a promising start to life with MNUFC2 and that could very well carry over to Honduras’ involvement at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Rodas, a 19-year-old defender/midfielder, has made four appearances in his debut MLS NEXT Pro campaign for the Western Conference club. He is still seeking his international debut with Honduras U-20 national team, an achievement that is on the horizon in Group F with France, Gambia, and South Korea.

Juan Castilla
Midfielder · Houston Dynamo 2

Colombia heads into the FIFA U-20 World Cup as one of the key favorites to bring home the title and Juan Castilla is a top talent to watch. 

Castilla is in his second season with Houston Dynamo 2 after delivering a positive debut MLS NEXT Pro campaign in 2022. The 18-year-old midfielder scored one goal and added four assists for Dynamo Dos last season, and has totaled over 200 minutes of action so far in 2023. 

Castilla has made 12 appearances for Colombia’s U-20 national team to date.

Finn Linder
Defender · Whitecaps FC 2

Another dual-national talent, Finn Linder joins club teammate Jay Herdman in the New Zealand squad. 

Linder has totaled 14 combined MLS NEXT Pro appearances for Whitecaps FC 2, registering two goals. The 19-year-old defender has yet to debut for New Zealand’s U-20 national team, but could achieve that goal in Argentina over the next few weeks. 

Similar to Herdman, Linder is also eligible to represent Canada at the senior level.

Israel Boatwright
Midfielder · Inter Miami II

Israel Boatwright has enjoyed a positive last few weeks with Inter Miami II and now turns his focus to international duty. 

Boatwright, a 17-year-old midfielder, signed an MLS NEXT Pro contract with Inter Miami II back on May 10 after continuing his development within the franchise. Boatwright has totaled nine MLS NEXT Pro appearances over the last two seasons, scoring one goal. 

He’s also a promising scoring threat with the Dominican Republic after scoring once in five U-20 apps to date.

David Ruiz
Midfielder · Inter Miami II

Another young talent in the Inter Miami II pool is 19-year-old midfielder David Ruiz. 

Ruiz, who is also eligible to represent the United States, recently scored his first-career MLS goal and registered his first assist for the Herons against the New England Revolution on May 13. Ruiz has made 19 combined MLS NEXT Pro appearances (16 in 2022) and is now enjoying a growing role with the first team this season. 

He has yet to debut for Honduras’ U-20 national team.

Arián Recinos - New York Red Bulls II - Guatemala

One player that we could see in MLS NEXT Pro this season is New York Red Bulls II defender Arian Recinos. 

Recinos, 18, has made five appearances for Guatemala’s U-20 national team to date, despite not making his league debut yet. He did feature 11 times in the USL Championship for Red Bulls II, but is still waiting to appear during the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro campaign. 

He will join up with FC Cincinnati 2 forward Arquimides Ordonez in the Guatamalan squad.