As the full United States Men’s National Team looks toward the second of two well publicized international friendlies let’s step back and look at the next high profile chance for the US men’s soccer to get back on the world stage. The 2020 Olympic games which will take place in Tokyo less than two years hence.
After failing to even qualify for the 2012 Olympics in England and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, surely qualification for 2020 would be a good indication of how US Soccer is progressing in the revitalization of its men’s soccer program. Remember that the Olympic competition will consist of under-23 teams (born on or after 1 January 1997) with a maximum of 3 overage players.
As part of the new interest in young players by US Soccer, 13 of the 24 man roster named for the upcoming friendlies is 23 or under. However, only five (Tyler Adams, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Weston McKinnie, Antonee Robinson and Tim Weah) will meet the U23 criteria during the 2020 Olympics. Adams, who currently plays his club ball with the New York Red Bulls is strongly rumored to be moving to Leipzig in the off-season. Carter-Vickers plays his club ball with Swansea in League One, McKinnie with Schalke, Wigan Athletic, and Weah with PSG. All are, or will soon be, playing in Europe.
Meanwhile, Justen Glad, Sebastian Saucedo, Brooks Lennon, Danilo Acosta, and Aaron Herrera, who were teammates of Adams, Carter-Vickers and McKinnie on the U-20 CONCACAF champion side in 2017, continue to rack up playing time in MLS without getting call-ups to the full team. Is there cause to worry and look for European opportunities?
With this being an true international window, it makes sense to bring players back from Europe and take advantage of the break in play there. Obviously once U23 camps begin to be called ahead of the 2019 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship in Costa Rica on 3-15 October 2019, many more U23 eligible players will need to be brought on and given time to gel as a time. Hopefully, at that point one or more of the RSL players will be given a chance to display their mettle and earn a spot to help the side qualify for the Olympics.
On the other hand, think of the possible disruption to RSL during the 2019 season should several of their young starters be called in for several camps including the qualification tournament in October just as the 2019 MLS season winds to a close. This could be further complicated by having them miss a large part of the 2020 season should they qualify.
One would have to imagine that active preparation for the 2019 qualifying championship need to begin with the annual cupcake camp during January 2019 which seems to have a very large proportion of US based players. However, as the newest rumors indicate an interim coach will still in place for this camp that might prove difficult. Even if this camp turns into the debut of a new full USMNT head coach he may easily want to look at a broader pool.
With more young academy players, including several from the RSL academy, signing aboard in search of bigger opportunities just what is the roll of MLS in preparing players for the U23 competitions and by extension full USMNT call-ups? Are the minutes that Justen Glad, Sebastian Saucedo, Brooks Lennon, Danilo Acosta, and Aaron Herrera are seeing for RSL during this season setting the stage for further national team appearances or will they be tempted to look abroad?