Aiming to qualify for its first Olympic Games since 2008, United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) Under-23 head coach Jason Kreis announced his 20-man roster on March 11, ahead of Concacaf tournament play beginning on March 18 in Guadalajara, Mexico.
His roster includes two Colorado Rapids players: attacker Jonathan Lewis and defender Sam Vines. Both have competed with distinction in recent USMNT camps and international friendlies. The larger group included Rapids’ Auston Trusty and Cole Bassett, but they did not make the Olympic Qualifying roster. (The last Colorado Rapids products that represented the Stars and Stripes in a Concacaf Olympic Qualifying tournament were Eric Miller, Dillon Serna, and Shane O’Neill in 2015-2016.)
Kreis selected 20 players (three goalkeepers and 17 field players) from the 31 invitees to the final evaluation camp in Guadalajara earlier this month. The roster boasts players from 11 MLS clubs. Real Salt Lake contributing three, while the Rapids, Orlando City SC, and the San Jose Earthquakes each with two players. Additionally, 18 of 20 players have spent time playing in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. Twelve players on this roster were also named to the U.S. Concacaf qualifying roster last March.
In his statement to the media, Kreis said, “We know that qualifying will be a challenge, but it’s a challenge that we’re ready for. We’ll need all 20 players on this roster to contribute for us to achieve our ultimate goal of qualifying for the Olympics. We’ve had a productive training camp in Guadalajara and our players are hungry for the opportunity to compete. After starting this journey nearly two years ago, we’re excited to get started with the tournament.”
Now the trek to Tokyo starts in earnest for Team USA. Assigned to Concacaf’s strong Group A, they will open play Costa Rica on March 18, followed by the Dominican Republic on March 21, and then face off with arch-rival Mexico on March 24.
Group B consists of Canada, Haiti, Honduras, and El Salvador.
The top two finishers in each group will advance to the pivotal semifinal matches that will send two winners to the Olympics in Tokyo as representatives of Concacaf.
The two winners will also meet in the final on March 30.
Should the Yanks advance to the Summer Games games, expect Kreis to leverage one rule that should aid his team to go deep into the tournament. The FIFA governing body ruled that players born on or after January 1, 1997 — plus three overage players — are eligible to play. That could open the door to the likes of Reggie Cannon, Christian Pulisic, and Tyler Adams to be called up.
But first, these youngsters must carry all the hopes of the United States on their backs, and in a two-week give-it-their-all, must-win at all cost performance, advance Team USA to Japan.
CONCACAF MEN’S OLYMPIC QUALIFYING CHAMPIONSHIP ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; HOMETOWN):
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; Jacksonville, Fla.), 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.)