U20 World Cup: 10 players to watch including Diop, Lennon and Solanke
The 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup gets underway in South Korea later this week, with many of world football's best young talents preparing for the biggest international tournament of their careers thus far.
While some would-be stars miss out due to their exploits in European leagues this season, with France and Monaco striker Kylian Mbappe one such absentee, there is still plenty of potential on show over the course of the next month.
Ahead of the tournament, ESPN FC profile 10 of the players to watch as 24 sides go head-to-head to be crowned youth world champions.
Issa Diop (France)
Toulouse defender Diop comes into the tournament as one of the more experienced players in Korea, having already started over 50 games at first-team level over the past two seasons.
At 6-foot-3 and powerfully built, the Frenchman at his best is a dominant figure at the heart of the backline and was a standout player in France U19s' European Championship victory last summer to achieve qualification for this event.
Diop may not yet be the most elegant of defenders on the ball but his power and excellent reading of the game should allow him to stand out from the crowd in Seoul.
Pervis Estupinan (Ecuador)
Bought by English Premier League side Watford last summer, Estupinan has spent this year on loan at Granada in Spain -- largely representing the side's second string in Segunda B. However, having been a first-team regular since the age of 17 for LDU Quito, the attack-minded full-back has proven experience at senior level.
Powerfully built, Estupinan marauds forward from left-back using his pace and dribbling ability to dominate his side of the pitch. With four goals in qualification, his importance to Ecuador's prospects cannot be understated.
Patson Daka (Zambia)
Named Player of the Tournament for his four goals at the 2017 U20 Cup of Nations earlier this year, 18-year-old striker Patson Daka has since made the move to European football with Red Bull Salzburg in Austria.
Thus far, things could not be going much better for the tall forward having scored twice at senior level for reserve side Liefering, while also contributing two goals in two outings as Salzburg won the UEFA Youth League title. Daka's standout quality is his athleticism, possessing explosive acceleration and the ability to manoeuvre his body to get shots away in tight areas.
As African champions, Zambia are a potential outside threat in the tournament and Daka will be key to their hopes of success.
Ritsu Doan (Japan)
The 18-year-old's career has taken-off since being named MVP of the AFC U19 Championship last year, and he is now starting regularly on either flank for club side Gamba Osaka.
Likely taking up a position on the right wing for Japan, Doan's strength lies in the silky touch of his left-foot. When shooting from range or seeking to thread the ball through the eye of a needle, he is capable of turning games in an instant when using his preferred foot.
While Doan relies more on technical craft than athleticism, his speed over 20-yards buys him space on a regular basis while he drifts infield to seek to influence games in central areas.
Brooks Lennon (USA)
Named in the Team of the Tournament at this year's CONCACAF U20 championship, Liverpool-owned winger Lennon has since made a solid start to his MLS career on-loan at Real Salt Lake.
Lennon's strength lies in the quality of his delivery off either foot. While he is an accomplished dribbler and possesses good pace, it is the accuracy and speed of his crossing which is very much his standout quality.
If Lennon can help the United States maintain width to their game and counter quickly, he could be key to his side's hopes of going deep into the competition. His group stage confrontation with Estupinan of Ecuador will be fascinating to watch.
Dominic Solanke (England)
Having impressed on loan at Vitesse last season, Solanke's progress at club level has ground to a halt over the past 12 months following an impasse with Chelsea over his contract situation.
The tall, athletic striker will have a point to prove in Korea, having previously been identified as one of England's brightest striking prospects. Indeed, interested clubs will be keeping a keen eye on his performance levels.
At every level he has played, Solanke has proven a regular goal scorer and while not a towering striking presence, he is an impressive physical specimen. England will hope he can continue his fine record in youth international competition once more.
Yangel Herrera (Venezuela)
Signed by Manchester City following his excellent displays during the South American Youth Championships in January, Herrera is currently on-loan with MLS side New York City for the remainder of the 2017 season.
Herrera is an all-action midfielder, contributing at both ends of the pitch for an impressive Venezuela side. Given his physical size and stamina, he is a pest all over the pitch for opponents when out of possession.
On the ball Herrera is neat and tidy, with a knack for arriving late in the box to contribute in attack. If he turns up in peak condition and Venezuela match their previous levels, they could be a force to be reckoned with this month.
Uriel Antuna (Mexico)
Right winger Antuna in recent months has become one of the most hotly discussed talents in the CONCACAF region following a starring role for Mexico in February's U20 tournament. With searing pace and strong technical skills, the diminutive winger reaped havoc for Mexico from the right flank, scoring three goals in his five appearances at the competition.
Interest in his signature has swelled since, with Santos Laguna immediately bringing Antuna into their first-team setup following the event.
Santiago Ascacibar (Argentina)
Frequently compared to Javier Mascherano, tenacious midfielder Ascacibar will be the man expected to set the tempo for Argentina's work-rate in the centre of the park.
A member of the country's Olympic squad last year, the Estudiantes midfielder has a wealth of experience upon which he can call and will be expected to take the leadership mantle as captain of the Argentina side.
While he is famed for his combative nature, Ascacibar is also an adept passer when in possession. As Argentina build out from the back, it is to him they will look to help manoeuvre their way up the pitch.
Ibrahima Niane (Senegal)
Senegal are an entirely unpredictable proposition coming into the tournament, but have shown in their recent win over Portugal that they have the potential to cause a major upset.
Niane hails from the prolific Generation Foot academy in Senegal (see: Sadio Mane, Papiss Cisse, Diafra Sakho and more) and has already agreed a deal to follow in their footsteps to join Ligue 1 side Metz this summer.
Tall and technical, the striker has largely operated from the right flank for his country. The forward's size and pace makes him a real challenge for defenders to deal with, especially when combined with impressive dribbling skills. His link-up with Sweden-based centre-forward Aliou Badji will be key to Senegalese hopes of success.
Chris Atkins is based in China and writes for ESPN FC about the Chinese Super League. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisAtkins_.