In a matter of weeks, the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) head coach Jason Kreis will call up dozens of America’s elite young male soccer players ahead of the 2021 Concacaf Olympic qualifiers. The invited players will be cited in a non-binding roster that Kreis will submit to Concacaf officials. Then, for one last time, Kreis and staff will evaluate his invitees up to the final minute of camp, and name the 20 players who compete against regional rivals in hopes of earning tickets to the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Team USA has not played in an Olympic stadium in 12 years.
Last week, the Federation announced its schedule for the 15th edition of the Olympic qualifying competition. During the Qualifiers, all players on the final roster must meet the under 23 age requirement. All of the matches will be played from March 18th to 30th in greater Guadalajara, Mexico and the tournament will feature eight national teams from the Caribbean, North America, and Central America. Group Stage round-robin play will take place at both Jalisco and Akron Stadiums from March 18-25.
Should the young Yanks land in spots 1 or 2 they will advance to a one-game semifinal game. The top finisher in each group will play the opposite group’s runner-up. Both semifinal matches will be played on March 28, at the Jalisco Stadium. The competition’s final is set for Tuesday, March 30 in the Akron Stadium. The winners of each do-or-die match will earn their ticket to Japan to participate in the Olympics.
Three young Colorado Rapids hopefuls in the mix
Rising Rapids Cole Bassett, Sam Vines, and Jonathan Lewis all hope to receive invitations to the pre-qualifiers’ camp. More so, they hope to exceed Kreis’ expectations and make the coach’s final roster, which will be comprised of three goalkeepers and 17 field players.
Going back to October 2020, Kreis had the opportunity to see the trio in action during an assortment of USMNT camps that were held in Florida.
All three have had their eyes set on the senior national team for years. Sam Vines’ debut came last February. After the match, the Colorado native said, “If I want to put my name into consideration for the Olympic team, I just have to keep working hard with the Rapids, I have to act like a full professional and keeping pushing to be there.”
Lewis recently echoed Vines’ sentiments about continuing to work hard on the club level. “I just need to keep proving myself. I think for me, the U-23s are a great stepping stone to prove myself, and that I am ready to play in the senior team, and also to just have eyes on myself and the team,” he said. “Again, it is a big opportunity to play in the Olympics qualifiers and possibly the Olympics with some of the best young players in the world. It provides me with opportunities to showcase myself to the world.”
After the recent friendly against Trinidad and Tobago, USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter was nothing but complimentary for the Burgundy Boys that featured. “The whole team for the last three weeks has impressed me. The attitude, the mindset, the focus, the intensity was all there for three weeks,” Berhalter said. ”When I look at today, when you talk about Jonathan Lewis and Jesus Ferreira, they did a great job of getting assists and goals. Sam Vines did a great job. The center backs were strong all game, Aaron Herrera played well.”
Cole Bassett earned a bounty of compliments from his coaches; however, did not see playing time during friendlies. No one is counting the crafty midfielder out, though — including Kreis. The skipper told the Burgundy Wave that Bassett will “certainly will be in contention for the March qualification. Maybe this is a good time to make it clear to everybody that there are no restrictions, not stints that you have to be in the January camp in order to make the qualification. It is very possible that there are several players not in this camp that we will be leaning on in the qualification.”
Concacaf Tournament Groups and Schedule
View the entire schedule here.