Ramos targets first-ever U-20 title for USA

Tab Ramos (pictured) led the USA to the 2013 and 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cups. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – It’s hard to believe, but the United States has never won the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in 22 all-time attempts.

That’s not to say it hasn’t come close. A pair of runner-up finishes in the last four editions stand as evidence, though, that a breakthrough is nearing.

With the next competition scheduled to be played February 17-March 3, 2017, in Costa Rica, head coach Tab Ramos is not only setting his sights on qualifying for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, he’s aiming to bring home a trophy.

“I don’t think we need to do anything different,” said Ramos, when asked what the U.S. can do to capture the crown. “Unfortunately, we always have the challenge of not having players released for the tournament, so we don’t come with our strongest team. We don’t take that as an excuse. We’re coming here to win every game. That’s what we’re here for and hopefully this year we can do it.”

Under the rules of new tournament format, in order to become king of the CONCACAF U-20 hill, the Americans must finish among the top two teams in their first-round group that contains Group B rivals Panama, Haiti and St. Kitts & Nevis. If that happens, they will progress to one of two, three-team groups and have to capture first place to earn a place in the final.

“You go from a group of four to a group of three,” Ramos, 50, remarked about the new format. “I think it makes you have to be a little more consistent throughout the tournament. All the games become important, just not the first couple and the last couple.

“In terms of advancing to the second round, hopefully we’re one of the teams that’s able to do that.”

The former U.S. national team star is not expecting an easy ride in Costa Rica.

“In terms of our draw, we know that Panama was an excellent team the last time around,” finished Ramos. “In terms of Haiti being the other team in the group, I they’re always difficult because they are random. They have a lot of good players. They can attack in a lot of different ways. St. Kitts is the up and comer. They’ve been doing a good job with their development and they’re deserving to be here, so I think it would be difficult.”

And would make a title even more satisfying.