As is tradition in FIFA youth tournaments, the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015 will be a world showcase for the players poised to be the next stars of their respective clubs and national teams. Based on the analysis and projections of NBC Deportes experts Andrés Cantor, Carlos Hermosillo, Sammy Sadovnik and Manuel Sol, the following are the top 10 players to watch in this competition:
Hirving Lozano (Mexico): This versatile midfielder has already made a name for himself with Pachuca, where he was key to helping his team make it to the Liga MX semifinals, and as the top scorer in the qualifying rounds for the FIFA U-20 WORLD CUP. The only member of the Mexican team who is married and has a family, Lozano is expected to be one of the pillars of the Mexican team.
Erick Gutiérrez (Mexico): Another stellar player TELEMUNDO and NBC UNIVERSO viewers know from the Liga MX, and Lozano’s teammate in Pachuca. Raised in a poor family in Sinaloa, Gutiérrez found a way out through his prowess on the field. He now sends money to help his mother, who made untold sacrifices to help him pursue his dream of playing soccer. He is the captain of the Mexican team that hopes to make history in the coming weeks in New Zealand.
Alberth Elis (Honduras): Growing up in a lower-middle class family Honduras, Alberth Ellis saw many of his friends succumb to a life of poverty and crime. Soccer was his ticket to escape the gangs that sent many of his peers to jail or an early grave.
Kevin Alvarez (Honduras): As a child, Kevin Alvarez sold bread on the streets of the Barandillas neighborhood of San Pedro Sula to help supplement his mother’s meager income as a laundress. Now, in addition to living his dream of playing soccer professionally, he is a budding songwriter and the father of a newborn son.
Rodrigo Moreira (Argentina): Rodrigo’s dream of meeting Messi came true when Argentina’s U-20 delegation played the country’s national team before the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. A young man of humble origins whose family has helped him make it through hard times, Rodrigo has tattoos of his parents’ names on his body as a mark of his gratitude. His father admits that his son had to “grow up fast” and his advice to him is: “Change your leaves if you have to, but never your roots.”
Giovanni Simeone (Argentina): The son of the renowned Atlético de Madrid coach and icon of the Argentine national team, Diego “el Cholo” Simeone, Giovanni is modest about his illustrious heritage and beloved by his teammates. The top scorer in the South American U-20 tournament, which earned Argentina its place in New Zealand, Giovanni is expected to be one of the leading figures in this competition.
Juan Otero (Colombia): A former mineworker and soccer coach, Otero has worked hard to reach his goal of providing for his family back home. Confident that Colombia has what it takes to be the champion, the accomplished 19-year-old is a ray of hope for his country’s team.
Joel Soñora (United States): This versatile Boca Juniors player was confirmed to his country’s lineup in New Zealand just a few days ago. The son of celebrated Argentine player and three-time MLS all-star Diego “Chiche” Soñora, Joel is known on Team USA for his skill and creativity, quick decision making, and ability to play various midfield positions. Fans hope that with his multifaceted talent he can bring “something different” to the United States’ game.
Paul Arriola (United States): Born in the US to a Mexican family, Paul Arriola has a foot on both sides of the border. A resident of Chula Vista, California, he crosses the border every day to play with Xolos de Tijuana in the Liga MX. As a dual citizen, he could have played with either the US or Mexican teams. In New Zealand, he will have a chance to show off his offensive skills to an international audience.
Ismael Díaz (Panama): Díaz is a creative and effective midfielder. A member of the Panamanian delegation that came second to Mexico in the CONCACAF qualifier for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, he is without doubt his country’s top player. His mother recalls that as a boy, Ismael used to cry if someone took his soccer ball away. He and his teammates believe this U-20 Panama lineup is made for greatness, and New Zealand is the perfect stage to prove their abilities.
TELEMUNDO and NBC UNIVERSO’s FIFA action will start with the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015, airing from May 29 through June 19. The networks will also cover the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ (June 6-July 5); the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015 (July 9-19); and the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015 (October 17-November 8). All games in these four FIFA events will air on TELEMUNDO and NBC UNIVERSO, as well as NBC Deportes EN VIVO EXTRA digital platforms.