Where Are They Now? The U.S. men's loaded 2003 U-20 squad

One of the U.S.' most talented U-20 teams claimed two wins and forced a star-studded Argentina to extra time before bowing out in the UAE.

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The United States U-20 men’s national team is finalizing preparations for the World Cup, slated to kick off in South Korea on May 22 against Ecuador.

Success for the U.S. at this age group has never quite materialized over the existence of the tournament. A fourth-place finish in 1989 represents the best result, while four times the team has progressed to the quarterfinals.

One of those instances took place in 2003 in the United Arab Emirates (at the time, the tournament was referred to as the World Youth Championship). After winning two of its first three group games, Thomas Rongen’s side punched its ticket to the quarterfinals with a Round of 16 win against the Ivory Coast. An Argentina squad that featured Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano eventually sent the U.S. packing, winning 2-1 on Fernando Cavenaghi’s Golden Goal winner in extra time.

The United States’ roster from that tournament is a mixed bag, a reminder that playing well at youth international tournaments doesn’t guarantee long-term success. We look back at the starters from that game, as well as a current U.S. superstar who didn’t even make it on the field that day.

Ricardo Clark

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Clark was the No. 2 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft in 2003, which would become a whirlwind year. He was a fixture that season for the MetroStars, playing in 28 matches, before heading to the UAE for the youth World Cup. The anchor in central midfield, Clark started all five games at the competition.

He went on to become a Houston Dynamo original, joining the San Jose Earthquakes ahead of the team’s move to Texas. Aside from a brief three-year sojourn to Europe with Eintracht Frankfurt, Clark is in the middle of his 10th season overall with Dynamo, with more than 300 MLS appearances to his name.

Steve Cronin

Phil Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Phil Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Back-stopping the team in goal was Steve Cronin, an original member of the inaugural Under-17 class at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. At the time a sophomore at Santa Clara University, Cronin’s performance helped him turn pro as he leveraged the tournament into a Project-40 (now Generation adidas) deal with MLS.

After getting drafted by the Earthquakes in 2004, he had a three-year stretch with the LA Galaxy from 2005-2008 before moving to the Portland Timbers at the end of their USL days. Cronin was actually signed by the Timbers at the end of 2010 as the team prepared to move to MLS, but he was traded to D.C. United ahead of Portland’s expansion campaign. He retired in April 2012 and currently sells insurance in Denver, Colorado.

Zak Whitbread

A cornerstone of the U.S. back line at the U-20 World Cup, Whitbread’s career always seemed to get nudged off track by nagging injuries. Originally part of Liverpool’s youth academy, the defender eventually joined Norwich City from 2010-2012, when it earned promotion from League One to the Championship and into the Premier League in back-to-back seasons.

Whitbread was hampered by injuries during his time at Norwich, though he did make a few appearances during the team’s 2011-12 Premier League campaign. He was released at the end of that season, moving on to play for Championship sides Leicester City, Derby County and most recently Shrewsbury Town in League One. Released by Shrewsbury in May 2016, he’s yet to re-sign with a club or announce his retirement.

Justin Mapp

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A marauding attacking force on the flanks, Justin Mapp’s a name that MLS fans will still know, despite the fact that he remains without a club this season. His career began the year before the 2003 World Cup and saw him makes stops with D.C. United, Chicago Fire, Philadelphia Union, Montreal Impact and Sporting Kansas City.

Mapp has amassed over 300 appearances in the league, logging 20,386 minutes on the field. The MLS veteran was last seen on trial with Orlando City SC during the 2017 preseason, though he never signed with the club.

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