The FIFA U-20 World Cup group stage concluded on Sunday with several current and former MLS NEXT Pro players enjoying positive runs through their three matches of play.
Jay Herdman, Juan Castilla, Finn Linder, and Antonio Carrera have all advanced to the knockout stage of the tournament, while several other players featured heavily for their respective national teams.
Here is a closer look at who impressed during the FIFA U-20 World Cup group stage:
18-year-old Jay Herdman has excelled for New Zealand at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, featuring in all three matches for the Ferns, who finished third in Group A.
Herdman, the son of current Canada men’s national team head coach Jay, started in two of his three appearances, including scoring New Zealand’s second goal in a 2-2 draw with Uzbekistan last week. He came off the bench in a final group defeat to hosts Argentina.
New Zealand’s third-place finish was good enough to see them advance to the Round of 16, where they will play the United States.
Juan Castilla featured in Colombia’s last two group stage matches, helping the South American side top Group C with seven points.
Castilla registered the game-tying assist in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Senegal, playing 19 minutes off the bench. The Houston Dynamo 2 attacker also played the final 20 minutes in a 2-1 victory over Japan last Wednesday, continuing to show his impact as a second-half substitute for Los Cafeteros.
Colombia will meet Slovakia in the Round of 16 on Wednesday.
Another dual-national talent for New Zealand, Finn Linder logged his international debut in New Zealand’s 5-0 defeat to Argentina.
The 19-year-old defender went the distance, logging 90 minutes at centerback for the Ferns. He will be fighting to start in the knockout stage alongside former club and international teammate, Jay Herdman.
Honduras did not clinch a spot in the Round of 16, but David Ruiz enjoyed a positive group stage with Los Catrachos.
Ruiz made his Honduras debut in a 2-1 group stage loss to Gambia before scoring his first international goal in a 2-2 draw with South Korea. He’s logged 135 minutes of action from his midfield position, showing strong moments in possession.
Another Honduran debutant, Geremy Rodas was key in the back for Honduras at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
A 19-year-old defender, Rodas started all three of Honduras’ three group stage matches in Argentina. After debuting for MNUFC2 at club level this season, Rodas has followed that up with positive performances against Gambia and South Korea.
Guatemala had a tough time at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, Arquímides Ordóñez did his best as one of the Concacaf nation’s key leaders.
Ordóñez started two of his three appearances in Argentina, before logging 45 minutes in Guatemala’s final match against Uzbekistan. Ordóñez, also a key member of FC Cincinnati’s first team, still has a bright future on the international level and will be one to watch going forward this summer.
Xavier Valdez was one of the busier goalkeepers in the group stage, with the Dominican Republic shot-stopper called into action heavily.
Valdez started in all three matches for the Dominicans in Argentina, registering 28 saves in his performances. Although the Dominicans finished bottom of Group D in a stacked group, Valdez did everything he could on the international level against tough competition in Brazil, Italy, and Nigeria.
The Dominican Republic made history by scoring its first goal in a FIFA World Cup tournament this month, with Edison Azcona putting his name down in the record books.
The 19-year-old started twice in group stage play for the Dominicans, before not featuring in Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Italy. Azcona was one of the Dominicans key playmakers in midfield and will remain a top talent for the senior national team heading into future competitions and matches later this year.
Israel Boatwright’s versatility was on display for the Dominican Republic, logging 249 minutes in all three of their group stage matches.
Boatwright, a 17-year-old midfielder, had recently signed an MLS NEXT Pro contract with Inter Miami II back on May 10. He’s carried that over to the international level, being one of the youngest players in the U-20 program.
He’s now made eight appearances for the Dominican Republic U-20 team.
Arian Recinos - New York Red Bulls II - Guatemala
Arian Recinos continued his development with the Guatemalan U-20 national team, featuring twice in group stage play.
Recinos, 18, has yet to make his MLS NEXT Pro debut with Red Bulls II, but did play 161 combined minutes in two starts in Argentina. A strong defender, Recinos did well in performances against Argentina and Uzbekistan despite Guatemala struggling to walk away with points in either.
Antonio Carrera has yet to feature at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, serving as No. 2 behind Gabriel Slonina.
The 19-year-old will aim to continue being a key teammate as the Americans prepare for the fifth-straight Round of 16 appearance.