The Concacaf U-20 Championship is gearing up for the Round of 16 this weekend and several MLS NEXT Pro players remain in the heat of the competition.
Goalkeepers Antonio Carrera and Chris Brady both started in goal for the U.S. Under-20 men’s national team, which clinched top spot in Group E after a 2-0-1 record. Jamaica’s Zion Scarlett and Trinidad & Tobago’s Molik Khan were the lone MLS NEXT Pro representatives to celebrate goals scored in the group stage as the Reggae Boyz and Soca Warriors advanced to the knockout stage.
Ben Alexander, Hugo Mbongue, and Kobi Franklin all featured for Canada, which remained alive in the tournament thanks to a 4-0 win on Wednesday over Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Wilfredo Rivera and Xavier Valdez headline four players who will kick off their involvements in the tournament this weekend.
Here is a closer look at the MLS Next Pro players who delivered top group stage performances at the Concacaf U-20 Championship:
Zion Scarlett, Columbus Crew 2, Jamaica
Zion Scarlett is the lone MLS NEXT Pro representative to find the back of the net in the group stage, scoring the winner in Jamaica’s 2-0 victory over Antigua and Barbuda on Wednesday. Scarlett’s 41st-minute finish was all the Reggae Boyz needed to eventually claim three points to finish third in Group H.
The versatile attacker will be pushing to start against Haiti on Sunday.
Chris Brady, Chicago Fire FC II, United States
Chris Brady has started in each of the last two matches for the USMNT U-20’s, totaling three saves in performances against Canada and Cuba. Brady posted a clean sheet in a 3-0 victory over Cuba on Wednesday, helping Mikey Varas’ side clinch top spot in Group E and rebound from a 2-2 draw with Canada just two nights prior.
Antonio Carrera, North Texas SC, United States
Antonio Carrera registered one clean sheet in group stage play for the Americans, totaling two saves in a 10-0 opening day win over Saint Kitts and Nevis. The North Texas SC shot-stopper had little to do on Matchday 1, but remains in contention to start Saturday against Nicaragua in the Round of 16.
Molik Khan, MNUFC2, Trinidad & Tobago
Molik Khan helped Trinidad & Tobago solidify a Round of 16 spot following Thursday’s 3-0 group stage win over Suriname. Khan scored the second goal for the Soca Warriors, helping them set up a knockout round clash with Costa Rica this weekend.
The MNUFC2 forward already made his senior international debut this spring, and now will be expected to deliver more attacking chances going forward.
Ben Alexander, Whitecaps FC 2, Canada
Ben Alexander has been one of the busier goalkeepers in Honduras after starting all three group stage matches for Canada.
Alexander, the Whitecaps FC 2 shot-stopper, has totaled 11 saves through his 270 minutes of action, with eight of those coming against the United States. The 18-year-old will be expected to retain his spot between the posts this weekend against Guatemala.
Hugo Mbongue, TFC II, Canada
17-year-old Hugo Mbongue has yet to find the back of the net for Canada, but will get another crack in the knockout stage against Guatemala.
Mbongue started two of Canada’s three group stage matches, logging 157 minutes so far. Canada finished third in Group E behind the United States and Cuba, and has yet to earn its opponent for the Round of 16.
Kobe Franklin, TFC II, Canada
Kobe Franklin has also appeared in all three group stage matches for Canada, totaling 193 minutes to date as a right midfielder and a right back.
The 19-year-old has been one of Canada’s more consistent players through the group stage and should get the nod to start this weekend in a must-win match against Guatemala.
Alejandro Cano, Earthquakes II, El Salvador
Alejandro Cano has been a leader for El Salvador’s backline through the group stage, but will have a tougher challenge in the knockout stage.
Cano, 17, started in all three of El Salvador’s group stage matches so far, helping La Selecta claim top spot in Group G. With only two goals conceded through 270 minutes, El Salvador will be a tough team to break down in the Round of 16.
These players qualified for the Round of 16 through a separate tournament:
Xavier Valdez, Houston Dynamo 2, Dominican Republic
Wilfredo Rivera, Orlando City B, Puerto Rico
Ian Silva, Orlando City B, Puerto Rico
Brian Flores, NYCFC II, Puerto Rico