Ryne Oshiro, Staff Writer
The 2020 Olympics are nearing, and the United States Men’s Soccer team looks to punch their ticket to Tokyo. It has been 12 years since the U.S. men’s team has qualified for the Olympic games, and their road to Tokyo will not be an easy one.
In January, the U.S. drew Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico in their bracket. Those in the U.S. bracket are considered “Group A,” while the other teams in “Group B” include Honduras, Canada, El Salvador, and Haiti. The qualifier begins at the end of March, with the first game being on Mar. 20 against Costa Rica. The men’s team will then face the Dominican Republic in game two on Mar. 23, and finally Mexico on Mar. 26.
Qualifiers are being held in Guadalajara, Mexico. The U.S. is 1-0 against Costa Rica, with no official competitive matches against the Dominican Republic. The toughest match will be the final game with Mexico.
In the 2012 Olympics, Mexico took home the gold and looks to, once again, seek a medal in 2020. With all this competition, the U.S looks to redeem themselves and make their way to Tokyo in the coming Olympics.
Back in 2012, the U.S. failed to get past the group stage, which eventually led to them missing placement in a qualifying match. Then, in 2016 the team was knocked out of the tournament by Honduras, who was listed in “Group B” of the qualifiers.
While these eight teams battle it out in the qualifying games, nine teams have already guaranteed their trip to Tokyo; Those teams include, Spain, Germany, Romania, France, the Ivory Coast, Egypt, South Africa, and New Zealand. Japan also received an automatic bid since they are the host for the summer Olympics.
Every team in the men’s Olympic tournament is composed of players under the age of 23 (U-23), though regulations do allow up to three slots for players over the age of 23.
“We think this age group is talented for the Olympic age group and we’re excited to see how they navigate through the qualification process and then eventually build the group for the Olympics,” said U.S. Head Coach Gregg Berhalter.
Since the Olympics allow for only players of such a young age, nearly all players who participated in the previous Olympics will likely not be on the team in this year’s qualifier. This allows a chance for new players to step up and perform.
The U.S. has a tough road ahead of them if they hope to travel to Tokyo. The top two teams from each group will move onto a semi-final match, which totals four teams. From there, the two winners of each semi-final will receive a bid to Tokyo. This means the U.S. must win at least two matches in their group if they want to have any chance of advancing.