The United States men’s national under-20 soccer team’s initial celebration for qualifying to the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup lasted all of five seconds. They got into a fight with Costa Rica. The American’s CONCACAF U-20 Championship quater-final was heated throughout, with plenty of those mass confrontations FIFA likes to have opponents avoid.
The pushing and shoving reached a tipping point after the final whistle of the USA’s 2-0 victory. American forward Cade Cowell is seen waving goodbye to a Costa Rican player, due to Los Ticos missing the U-20 World Cup. Cowell is charged by the incensed player, starting a melee between the teams.
The Fox Sports cameras show the opening moments of the post-game confrontation, before quickly cutting to other celebrations. A few seconds later, every player from both teams and CONCACAF officials are involved. Back in the area where the chaos began, US midfielder Niko Tsakiris is down on the pitch looking confused. Several smaller skirmishes break out from there.
More kicks, with studded cleats on, can be seen thrown by players than punches, most instigated by the eliminated Costa Ricans. The whole dust-up lasted less than a minute and no one appeared to be hurt from the fight. No supplemental disciplinary action has been announced by CONCACAF or US Soccer. Then again, neither organization has released a statement about the extracurriculars. I guess that post-game “passion” is ok’ed by CONCACAF, with important games becoming more contentious by the year?
The game aired on FS2 and didn’t impact the United States senior national team’s status for the World Cup in Qatar. And the near-brawl has had next-to-no publicity. This isn’t a sweep-it-under-the-rug scenario. Someone could’ve been seriously hurt and it’s a minor miracle no one was. As Deadspin’s Carron Phillips wrote yesterday, athletes who play outside the confines of the NBA and NFL too frequently get a pass for their on-field fights, while those who brawl in predominantly Black sports get labeled “thugs” and their conduct pointed to as some ill-defined example of societal decay. So where was all the pearl-clutching about “thugs” on the U-20 teams?
As evidenced by the end of the video with the team standing together, the crop of USA U-20s may be ethnically diverse, but pales in comparison to the Black representation of the NFL and NBA. Should the Yanks look more like the Lakers or Patriots, you can bet Tuesday night’s melee would’ve drawn more mainstream attention. Instead, the incident didn’t move a single needle.
Those wearing the US crest aren’t just teenagers either. From the Americans’ 2019 U-20 World Cup squad, the last time the event was held, 11 have gone on to represent the USA at the senior level. They include Sergino Dest and Tim Weah, who are locks to be on Gregg Berhalter’s squad in Qatar. Paxten Aaronson, who scored both American goals against Costa Rica, is the younger brother of USMNT mainstay Brenden Aaronson. The US U-20s return to action on Friday against Honduras with a berth to the 2024 Summer Olympics at stake. The fighting will be optional.