USA set to begin Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship
The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team kicks off the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship on Thursday, March 18 against Costa Rica (5:30 p.m. ET; FS1, TUDN).
As the U-23 USMNT aims to qualify for its first Olympics since 2008, the qualifying tournament is finally set to kick off a year after it was originally scheduled and postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The delay provided plenty of opportunity for growth for a potential-packed U-23 USMNT squad and the USA enters the tournament riding the momentum of positive performances since the USMNT program returned to action in Nov. 2020.
After facing Costa Rica, the U-23 USMNT will take on Dominican Republic on Sunday, March 21 (7:00 p.m.; FS1, TUDN) and finish the group stage vs. Mexico on Wednesday, March 24 (9:30 p.m.; FS1, TUDN). The tournament will take place at two venues in the greater Guadalajara area, Estadio Jalisco in the city proper and Estadio Akron in Zapopan, Mexico. Due to the current conditions related to the global pandemic, the matches will be played with limited attendance.
USA SCHEDULE – CONCACAF MEN’S OLYMPIC QUALIFYING CHAMPIONSHIP
|Date||Opponent||Venue||Time (ET)||TV Info|
|Thursday, March 18||Costa Rica||Estadio Jalisco; Guadalajara, Mexico||5:30 p.m.||FS1, TUDN|
|Sunday, March 21||Dominican Republic||Estadio Akron; Zapopan, Mexico||7:00 p.m.||FS1, TUDN|
|Wednesday, March 24||Mexico||Estadio Jalisco; Guadalajara, Mexico||9:30 p.m.||FS1, TUDN|
WATCH MEN’S OLYMPIC QUALIFYING: All three of the USA’s group stage matches at the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship will be broadcast on FS1 and TUDN. Click here for the full broadcast schedules for Fox Sports and Telemundo platforms.
TOURNAMENT FORMAT: Held quadrennially, the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship serves as the region’s qualification for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament and as a championship for under-23 players. Since 1992, the Olympics have been contested as an under-23 competition to differentiate the tournament from the FIFA World Cup.
The current format for the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship – eight nations divided into two groups of four teams – was assumed in 2004. The top two teams in each group advance to the pivotal semifinals, whose winners advance to the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament as well as the qualifying competition’s championship match.
Originally slated for March 2020, the Concacaf qualifying tournament is open to all players born January 1, 1997 or after. The age-eligibility rules have carried over from the postponement, so some players on the U-23 USMNT are actually 24 years old.
|Group A||Group B|
|Costa Rica||El Salvador|
REARING FOR RETURN TO THE OLYMPICS: The USA hasn’t qualified for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament since 2008. In Guadalajara, the U-23 USMNT will aim to punch its ticket to the Olympics for the fourth time since it became an age-restricted competition in 1992. The USA brings a talented roster brimming with experience at the professional level and in important international youth competitions. The roster averages 45 career first-division professional appearances. Ten players have won Concacaf championships at the U-20 level in 2017 and 2018, helping the USA to its first-ever titles at that age group. Additionally, 11 players have already earned their senior USMNT debuts, led by captain Jackson Yueill (nine), forward Jonathan Lewis (seven) and midfielder Djorjde Mihailovic (six).
AT LONG LAST: After a week of preparation in Guadalajara last March, Concacaf announced the indefinite suspension of all its competitions due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 13, 2020. The USA kicks off the tournament roughly a year after it was originally scheduled. Despite the delay, the U-23 USMNT made the most of an uncertain year, as new players burst onto the scene in Major League Soccer and others took the next step in their professional careers. Defenders Henry Kessler and Mauricio Pineda used outstanding rookie MLS campaigns to earn a spot in Guadalajara, while U-23 mainstay JT Marcinkowski established himself as San Jose’s starting goalkeeper down the stretch and Mihailovic enjoyed his most productive professional season yet.
QUALIFIED TO TOKYO: Fourteen of 16 teams are already qualified to the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament as Concacaf is the last region to hold its qualifying competition. In addition to host Japan; Australia, Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia will represent Asia; France, Germany, Romania and Spain qualified from Europe; New Zealand earned its berth from Oceania; Egypt, Ivory Coast and South Africa punched their tickets from Africa; and Argentina and Brazil will carry the banner for South America.
The USA has played in 14 Men’s Olympic Football Tournaments, more than any other nation in Concacaf.
RUN-UP TO MEXICO: After the COVID-19 pandemic put international soccer on hold, the USMNT program finally resumed in November 2020. Eighteen of 20 players on the U-23 USMNT roster have been back in a USA training camp since the restart.
In November, the senior squad (with a heavy U-23-eligible contingent) resumed play with two friendlies in Europe and in December, took on El Salvador after a rare year-end training camp. In January, the U-23 USMNT and full team held a joint training camp before 16 U-23 players were called up to the senior team for its match against Trinidad and Tobago. Defender Aaron Herrera and midfielder Andrés Perea made their USMNT debuts in that match, while Jesús Ferreira and Jonathan Lewis bagged braces for their first full international goals.
CONCACAF MEN’S OLYMPIC QUALIFYING CHAMPIONSHIP ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; HOMETOWN):
GOALKEEPERS (3): Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes, Alamo, Calif.), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; Oxnard, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (6): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; Lompoc, Calif.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake; Las Cruces, N.M.), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; New York, N.Y.), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire FC; Bolingbrook, Ill.), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; Colorado Springs, Colo.)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; Denville, N.J.), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United FC; Federal Way, Wash.), Ulysses Llanez (Heerenveen/NED; Lynwood, Calif.), Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montreal/CAN; Lemont, Ill.), Andrés Perea (Orlando City SC; Medellin, Colombia), Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM Pumas/MEX; Park City, Utah), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; Bloomington, Minn.)
FORWARDS (4): Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; Plantation, Fla.), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.), Sebastian Soto (Norwich City/ENG; San Diego, Calif.)
- The squad features players from 11 MLS clubs, with Real Salt Lake contributing the most (3). Colorado Rapids, Orlando City SC and the San Jose Earthquakes each had two players named to the roster.
- Four players compete in countries with competitions outside of MLS: Cardoso (Brazil), Soto (England), Saucedo (Mexico) and Llanez (Netherlands).
- Eighteen of 20 players spent time playing in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, including all current domestic-based players.
- Twelve players were also named to the U.S. roster in March 2020 for the originally scheduled Olympic qualifying tournament.
- In addition to the 10 MLS players that came up through their respective academies, the remaining eight last played for the following DA teams: Dotson (Crossfire Premier), Kessler (Beachside FC), Lewis (Kendall SC), Llanez (LA Galaxy), Mihailovic (Chicago Fire FC), Saucedo (Real Salt Lake), Soto (Real Salt Lake) and Yueill (Minnesota Thunder Academy).
- Ten MLS Homegrown players are on the roster. Forward Sebastian Saucedo also started his career as a Homegrown player with Real Salt Lake.
- With five U-23 caps, forward Djordje Mihailovic has the most experience on the roster at this age level. He has captained the squad in its last three international matches.
- Goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski has appeared in all nine training camps for the U-23 USMNT during this cycle, including the team’s June 2019 joint camp with the senior team.
- Along with guiding Real Salt Lake to the 2009 MLS Cup, Kreis also had success at the Confederation level in the professional club game, leading RSL to the highest-ever finish for a U.S.-based team in the Concacaf Champions League. The team reached the 2010-11 tournament final, dropping a tight 3-2 aggregate result to Mexican power Monterrey.
- In addition to the 10 players with Concacaf Championship experience at the U-20 level, forwards Jonathan Lewis and Djordje Mihailovic were part of the senior USMNT’s runner-up finish at the 2019 Gold Cup.
- Defender Justen Glad was named to the Best XI at the 2017 Concacaf U-20 Championship, while Ulysses Llanez earned Best XI honors in 2018 as one of the tournament’s leading scorers.
- The four players born in 2001 are age-eligible for the 2024 Olympic Games.
- C.J. Brown, Jeff Cassar and Steve Ralston will serve as assistant coaches to Kreis during the tournament, and Rob Vartughian will be the team’s goalkeeper coach.
USA VS. COSTA RICA:
- The USA has faced Costa Rica twice in Concacaf Olympic qualifying, both in 1980. The USA defeated Los Ticos 1-0 in San Jose on March 20 before drawing the Central American country 1-1 in Edwardsville, Ill. on March 25.
- The nations also faced off during the Olympics at Los Angeles 1984, a 3-0 win for U.S. at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto.
- Los Angeles 1984 was one of three Olympic appearances for Costa Rica in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament, along with Moscow 1980 and Athens 2004. Los Ticos reached the quarterfinals of the 2004 tournament, its best-ever showing.
- Costa Rica qualified for the Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship as one of three teams to emerge from the six-team Central American pre-qualifying. The six teams were placed into three two-legged series with the winners advancing to the tournament proper.
- Drawn against Guatemala for a two-legged tie in July 2019, Costa Rica rolled Los Chapines on the road in a 3-0 victory. Guatemala rallied back for a 2-0 win in Costa Rica a few days later, but Los Ticos won 3-2 on aggregate to advance to Guadalajara.
- Costa Rica has called in nine players born in 1997, four born in 1998, three born in 1999, three born in 2000 and one born in 2002.
- Fifteen of Costa Rica’s 20 players are based domestically. Eight come from Alajuelense, one of Central America’s most-successful clubs.
- Head coach Douglas Sequeira will lead Costa Rica at Concacaf Olympic qualifying. After a long playing career that included 42 national team caps, Sequeira began working with Costa Rican club Saprissa’s youth teams.
COSTA RICA ROSTER (CLUB):
GOALKEEPERS (3): 13-Kevin Chamorro (San Carlos), 1-Adonis Pineda (Alajuelense), 18-Patrick Sequeira (Celta Vigo/ESP)
DEFENDERS (7): 12-Kevin Espinoza (Guadalupe), 19-Fernan Faerron (Alajuelense), 15-Alexis Gamboa (Alajuelense), 6-Luis Hernandez (Saprissa), 3-Yurguin Roman (Alajuelense), 2-Aaron Salazar (Herediano), 4-Ian Smith (Alajuelense)
MIDFIEDLERS (6): 8-Bernald Alfaro (Alajuelense), 5-Jefferson Brenes (Herediano), 11-Luis Diaz (Columbus Crew SC/USA), 10-Randall Leal (Nashville SC/USA), 20-Jimmy Marin (Saprissa), 17-Gerson Torres (Herediano)
FORWARDS (4): 7-Marvin Lora (Portland Timbers/USA), 16-Adrian Martinez (Alajuelense), 9-Jurguens Montenegro (Alajuelense), 14-Manfred Ugalde (Lommel/BEL)
- Players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are age-eligible for this tournament. Age-eligibility rules have carried over from the postponement, so some players in the competition are actually 24 years old.
- Single yellow cards will be eliminated at the end of the group stage.
- Two yellow cards received in different matches of the tournament will result in suspension for the following match.
- Red card suspensions will be served regardless of the stage of the tournament.
- Match suspensions not served during the qualifying tournament will carry over to the team’s next official match, including potentially the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament.
- Should teams be tied on points at the end of the group stage, the tiebreakers are as follows:
- a) greatest number of points obtained in all group matches
- b) goal difference in all matches
- c) greatest number of goals scored
- If two or more teams are still tied on the basis of the first three criteria, the ranking will be determined as follows:
- d) greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned
- e) goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned
- f) greatest number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned
- g) FIFA Fair Play points
- h) drawing of lots
- In the knockout stages, if a match is tied at the end of regulation, two periods of 15 minutes shall be played for extra time. An extra substitution is allowed during extra time.
- If the score is still tied at the end of extra time, kicks from the penalty mark will be taken to determine the winner.
Jackson Yueill was voted U-23 USMNT captain.
Julio Benitez will play for Real Monarchs.
Justin Che is joining the German champions.
The USMNT is heading to Austria.
He joins the Red Bulls from Celtic FC.
Patrick Weah has signed a Homegrown Contract.
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