The facts are known by now -- on Sunday the USA U-20s were eliminated at the quarterfinal stage from the FIFA U-20 World Cup, losing 6-5 on penalties to Serbia after a goalless draw after extra time. The penalty shootout went eight rounds, and on two occasions the US goalkeeper, Zack Steffen, made critical saves to keep the USA in the World Cup. At the end the young USA players made one miss too many, and Nemanja Maksimović converted the winning penalty.
It was a match in which the limited personnel started to tell. Between the suspensions and the injuries to front-line players, there were very few options for the US to create scoring opportunities. Neither side was able to break past organized defensive lines, and it was telling that the Serbians created almost all of the half-chances in the extra period.
So the USA's fourth place finish in 1989 remains the high-water mark for a USA U-20 side at a World Cup. This year's group will join those of 1993, 2003, and 2007 as fellow quarterfinalists who will wonder what might have been but look forward to further developing the rest of their careers.