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Next steps for rising U.S. stars

United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann discusses preparations for the Gold Cup, where he enjoys the task of managing a roster full of both European- and MLS-based players.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann may have valued experience over youth on his roster for next month's Gold Cup, but June 2015 will still go down as a banner month for some of America's brightest young prospects.

The U.S. team's stirring run at the U20 World Cup in New Zealand ended in the quarterfinals against eventual champion Serbia on penalty kicks. A shorthanded U23 side finished third at the prestigious Toulon Tournament in France. And of course, a host of blue-chippers helped Klinsmann's varsity squad notch historic friendly wins on the road against Germany and the Netherlands.

Some of the young standouts who impressed on foreign soil will surely go on to represent the U.S. at senior World Cups (a couple already have, last summer in Brazil).

But even the ones who make it to Russia 2018 still have a long road ahead of them to get there. Here are the next steps for 15 players, all of them 23 years old or younger, who were in action for one of the three aforementioned national teams this month.

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Adama Traore shines brightest at under-20 World Cup

Mali midfielder Adama Traore scored four goals and collected three assists in seven matches at the Under-20 World Cup.
Mali midfielder Adama Traore scored four goals and collected three assists in seven matches at the Under-20 World Cup.

Adama Traore was relegated to the side-stage on the final day of the 2015 under-20 World Cup in New Zealand. But not to be outdone, he produced a performance and two wonderful goals that were more than worthy of the main event to inspire Mali to a 3-1 victory over Senegal in the third-place playoff, and to cement Traore's status as the player of the tournament.

His first was a perfectly curled free kick into the top corner, while his second saw him neatly turn away from a challenge before drilling...

 By Sasa Ibrulj

Veljko Paunovic: The man behind Serbia's under-20 World Cup glory

Serbian football is on the rise thanks to under-20 World Cup-winning manager Veljko Paunovic.
Serbian football is on the rise thanks to under-20 World Cup-winning manager Veljko Paunovic.

What was supposed to be a lazy Saturday morning in the Serbian capital of Belgrade turned into a nervous awakening for many in front of television screens. On the other side of the world, in Auckland, New Zealand, the Serbian under-20 team was playing Brazil in the FIFA U-20 World Cup final.

"The best morning show in the history of Serbian television," as the commentator on the national TV put it.

Two and a half hours later, after a 1-1 score at the end of regular time and Nemanja Maksimovic's...

Serbia beat Brazil to win Under-20 World Cup

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Serbia captain Predrag Rajkovic lifts the Under-20 World Cup after victory over Brazil.

Nemanja Maksimovic scored late in extra time to give Serbia a surprise 2-1 win over Brazil on Saturday in the final of the Under-20 World Cup.

The match seemed headed for a penalty shootout when Serbia counterattacked in the 117th minute and Stefan Ilic combined with Andrija Zivkovic to put Maksimovic in behind the defence and he calmly slotted his low shot past goalkeeper Jean.

The victory, and Serbia's first title as an independent nation, owed much to goalkeeper and captain Pedrag Rajkovic,...

Mali beat Senegal to finish third at Under-20 World Cup

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Adama Traore celebrates after scoring for Mali in their Under-20 World Cup victory over Senegal.

Mali claimed third place at the Under-20 World Cup with a 3-1 win over 10-man Senegal in a dramatic and foul-ridden match on Saturday.

Two stunning strikes from Adama Traore saw Mali take the lead after Ibrahima Wadji had opened the scoring for Senegal midway through the second half.

"Adama Traore did a great job for us," Mali coach Fanyeri Diarra said. "He is a great player and I have no doubt he has a great future in the game.

"We've had a great run in this competition and the outcome is very...