We are two months away from the tournament that will take place in Brittany, France and we are very much in the dark on the final squad. The FA does not release squad lists for the training camps, so it is total guesswork on who will make it and who won’t.
As the FA has to give a pre-list of 35 players and chose 21 players for the final squad, I have therefore put a 38 players list and added checked their numbers for the 2017/18 season. To build that list, I have taken into account the only squads list that were openly available for this U20 cycle : Euro U19, Florida U20 tournament, La Manga U23 tournament.
As in every World Cup squad list, there is often a last-minute passenger who jumps on the plane. This year there should be at least one courtesy of the England U19 failure to qualify for the finals in Switzerland. It means some of the U19 players who were not involved with the U20 can now compete for a place in the squad. Therefore Lauren Hemp should jump the queue and make the final 21 on the strength of her club season.
In term of squad format, I would expect Mo Marley to select 3 goalkeepers, 7 defenders, 5 midfielders and 6 forwards. It could also be a 3/6/6/6 or a 3/6/5/7 squad format as well. The final squad places are often taken by players who can play in more than one position.
It is important to note that the final squads do not always have all the best players available. Sometimes some players are not selected because they cannot fit within a squad for a full month competitions for multiple reasons. Managers will be reluctant to take a potentially disruptive top-level player. There are plenty of examples in men and women football of World Cup teams that failed to win because of internal problems.
I have split the players chances to make it in three categories : those who are likely to make it barring any injuries, those who are competing for a spot with other players and the dark horses who are unlikely to get selected but could be a surprise choice.
Note that some players might have short or medium term injuries and miss out on the squad. But because of the secrecy surrounding selection, someone who is a mainstay of the team might already be out of the reckoning, but the information is not available to us. And because of this a player missing out might alter the balance of the squad and it could become a different configuration.
Goalkeepers – 3 slots
Sandy McIver and Ellie Roebuck have been called up on regular basis to the three tournaments. Both had significant game time especially Roebuck with Manchester City who had a long streak between the post before losing her place towards the end of the season.
For the third place, the logical choice would be Sian Rogers of Aston Villa who has travelled for many squads as third choice. The only question mark is her injury status as she was injured in the League against London Bees and subsequently missed the remaining League games.
Another candidate could be Fran Kitching who has had a superb season with Watford Ladies and would deserve to compete for a starting place on current form. The big question is if she is on the FA radar or not and we have no idea about it.
A fifth option could Birmingham City’s Hannah Hampton who was highly rated at U17 level and played six times for the first team this season. She would make a good third keeper learning during the tournament and then could use her experience in the next cycle, leading to the 2020 U20 World Cup.
The England U19 goalkeepers used up to the Elite Round are also potential players with Emily Ramsey of Liverpool who has had a game in the first team this season and Katie Startup of Charlton who has just won promotion to the newly named Championship. Both could also be in the long list and candidates for the third goalkeeper spot.
Defenders – 6 or 7 slots
To me there are five defenders who have been consistently called for the tournaments squads and therefore will definitely be in the final 21 if they are not injured.
They are left-back Mayumi Pacheco from Doncaster Belles, and center-backs, Grace Fisk from South Carolina, Lotte Wubben-Moy from UNC ( if she is fit to play as she has been unlucky with injuries for long periods this season), Anna Patten who can also play at right-back from FSU and Megan Finnigan from Everton. Those five players have had regular game time with their club and universities and therefore tick all the boxes.
Then there are four possible choices who could get in the squad for the sixth and potentially seventh place. Everton left’s back Taylor Hinds who is the natural back-up for Pacheco. She left Arsenal during the January window in order to gain playing time. She has played 11 games during the season. She can also play as a left winger.
Another serious candidate is Samantha Tierney from Doncaster Belles who has not been called up for any of the three tournament but can boast 21 appearances with the FA WSL2 side. Will it be enough for a place in the final squad? She plays her club football in midfield rather than in defense.
Then we have Lucy Parker from LSU who had a good season in midfield in the NCAA and was recently called back for the Florida and La Manga tournament after missing out on the Euros. Her versatility could be an asset for the team.
And finally Esme Morgan from Manchester City. The young defender managed to get 10 games as an 18 years old with the Champions League semi-finalist and can play at center-back or at right-back. These are really good numbers in a team packed with international players like Manchester City.
The dark horse in defense would be Serena Fletcher from Manchester City who was recently called up for the La Manga U23 tournament but has not played any minute for City’s first team, so has clearly less experience than the other defenders.
Midfielders – 5 or 6 slots
I anticipate five midfielders being picked and the five spots are very much settled. With five midfielders selected, it would allow Mo Marley to pick an extra forward or an extra defender if needed to balance the squad. Those five midfielders have been constantly called up for tournaments and have regular playing time with their club or university and have earned the manager’s trust.
The players are Manchester City’s playmaker Georgia Stanway and four central midfielders Chloe Peplow from Brighton, Mollie Rouse from Louisville University, Zoe Cross from Missouri and Georgia Allen from Syracuse.
If ever, Mo Marley decides to select a sixth player in midfield, which is something I don’t expect to happen because certain defenders can actually play in the defensive midfield position and have done it with their club/ university ( Parker, Finnigan, Wubben-Moy, Patten). I believe there are three players who could come in :
Two attacking midfielders from Millwall : Charlie Devlin, who is a winger/ playmaker. She has collected 23 appearances and nine goals this season and was called up for one of the non-tournament camp earlier this season as seen in her social media. She is creative and can beat defenders and could be an excellent supersub. The other midfielder at Millwall is a playmaker/second striker Ella Rutherford. She has made 15 appearances and has five goals to her name at only 18 years old.
The other midfielder that could be surprise call up is Isabella Sibley who made the Euro U19 squad in Northern Ireland. But like Serena Fletcher in defense, she is a player with no first team game time this season, so it would be a good surprise to see her make the final 21.
Forwards – 6 or 7 slots
Forward is the position where is the most competition and density. I make it 12 players competing for six or seven available spots. It is actually hard to define a hierarchy between the players because they are so close it term of quality. Final selection for the forwards will be probably decided in the last camp in July.
So it term of players that should definitely making the trip to France, there are four regulars, that have been called to all the camps and tournament except when they have been injured.
Chloe Kelly the striker from Everton, who has been ever-present for her club and scored eight goals this season.
Alessia Russo the pacy striker from UNC, who has had a very solid season with her university scoring nine goals as a Freshman.
Ellie Brazil, the tall, powerful and complete forward from Fiorentina, who has not had as many games as other players due to injury and competition for places, but has a huge potential. If players were exclusively judged on the number of appearances, she would be one of those players who would have to fight for one of the final seats.
The same apply for Niamh Charles, the Liverpool winger who has been called up in every tournament and can play on both wings, like Brazil she has not played as many games as some other players. But I still think she should make it on the plane to France.
Then there is a player who looked to me like a dark horse until April, as she was involved with the U19 team that did not qualify for the Euro finals. Lauren Hemp should definitely go to France. The 18 years old has played 23 games for Bristol and scored nine goals in the process. Her sensational form should make her a certainty to be in the squad.
So with five players more or less guaranteed a sport, there are only one or two places available
Charlie Wellings the Birmingham striker has the most first team appearances of all the forward candidates with 24 and six goals. She should be in on the strength of her club form and consistency. Would she get in ahead of one of the four player who have been ever-present in the current two years cycle?
Rianna Dean the Millwall striker got 23 games and ten goals in the FA WSL2. She missed out on a Euro place last season due to no first team game time unlike other players who went to the tournament. She has had a good consistent season in the second tier. Will it be enough though?
Alicia Johnson another Liverpool winger has been called up for the last two tournament in Florida and La Manga. She has therefore an outside chance to make it. She has made 17 appearances, a third of them as a starter and three goals for the Reds.
Rinsola Babajide another Liverpool winger would have been until January in my certainty list as she has taken part in the whole campaign and tournaments. But her transfer window move from Watford to Liverpool has been a disaster in term of game time.
She might have found the commuting from London and the gap between FA WSL2 and FA WSL1 more difficult to bridge than expected. It looks to me that she has gone behind others in the striker hierarchy.
The density of option opened to Mo Marley is so good that the numerous dark horses have a little chance to make it. Kess Elmore* from U-Conn was on the Florida trip and could be in the long list as well as Hannah Cain from Sheffield Ladies, the young forward has played 14 times in the second tier and scored five goals. Ella Toone from Manchester City who has played six games and had one start could also be in the race for a place.
A young striker with an excellent record for her first season in the FA WSL is Bridget Galloway from Sunderland. 17 appearances with 14 starts and six goals is a very decent statistic. She should be taken into consideration and could sneak in.
So here are the players I am expecting to be in final 21 players for the U20 World Cup played in August :
GK 2 McIver, Roebuck
DF 6 Finnigan, Fisk, Pacheco, Patten, Wubben-Moy, Hinds
MF 5 Allen, Cross, Peplow, Rouse, Stanway
FW 6 Brazil, Charles, Hemp, Kelly, Russo, Wellings
There will be obviously a third goalie to be chosen and it leaves only one place available. It could be one defender or one forward. In the end, England will have a very strong team that should be looking to win a medal at the tournament.
*has suffered an ACL injury and is not available