Men's Olympic qualifying: USA draws 'Group of Death' in Guadalajara

The USA was drawn with host Mexico, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic in group play at the Concacaf Men's Olympic Qualifying Championship, which will take place March 20-April 1 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The Mexican press almost in unison dubbed it the "Grupo de la muerte” ("Group of Death"). The good news: The USA avoids a possible matchup with Mexico in the all-important semifinals if it advances. The two semifinal winners will be Concacaf's two representatives in the Olympic men's soccer tournament in Japan.

The USA failed to qualify for the last two Olympics after failing to reach the semifinals in 2012 when it finished third in its group behind Canada and El Salvador and losing a playoff to Colombia in 2016 after falling to Houston in its semifinal match. (There will be no second chance this time.)

The USA will open against Costa Rica at the Jalisco Stadium, where Mexico knocked the USA of the 2004 Olympics with a 4-0 win. It will then move to the Akron Stadium, Guadalajara's new stadium, before returning to the Jalisco Stadium to close out group play against Mexico.

Honduras, Canada, El Salvador and Haiti will play in Group B, also played in Guadalajara.

Assessing the USA's chances is difficult because it isn't clear who the eight Concacaf teams will have available.

Qualifying starts on March 20, three days before the March window for senior national teams opens. Players called up will have to miss a weekend of club play outside the window. As it is, teams aren't required to release players for age-group competitions such as the Olympics.

Here's a quick look at the USA and its opponents ...

USA. Jason Kreis took over as U-23 coach 10 months ago and has had the team at camps during each of the three FIFA windows last fall.

Fourteen of the 25 players at the senior national team camp are age-eligible for the Olympics: JT Marcinkowski, Julian Araujo, Reggie Cannon, Justen Glad, Mark McKenzie, Sam Vines, Brenden Aaronson, Christian Cappis, Bryang Kayo, Paxton Pomykal, Jackson Yueill, Jesus Ferreira, Jonathan Lewis and Ulysses Llanez.

Other players under serious consideration will be players from the 2019 U-20s at European clubs: Chris Richards, Chris Gloster, Chris Durkin, Alex Mendez and Richie Ledezma and Tim Weah.

In addition, such European-based players as Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Sergino Dest, Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent are all also age-eligible though the chances that they will be released are very slim.

Mexico. Mexico is the top seed as an Olympic 2016 qualifier along with Honduras, the Group B top seed. It failed to get out of the group stage at the Olympics four years ago in Brazil after winning gold for the first time at the 2016 London Olympics.

After their December meeting, Liga MX clubs issued a statement of support for the Olympic effort and Mexico's U-23 coach Jaime Lozano. The Preolímpico starts the same weekend as Round 11 of the Torneo Clausura.

Mexico called up 13 age-eligible players to the senior national team for the final two matches in the Concacaf Nations League in November. Players from its 2019 Gold Cup championship Mexico can drawn upon are Edson Alvarez, Carlos Rodriguez, Roberto Alvarado, Alexis Vega, Cesar Montes and Uriel Antuna.

Costa Rica. The Ticos have qualified for the Olympics only three times: 1980, 1984 and 2004. They are one of three teams to advance from Central America along with Honduras and El Salvador.

Costa Rica U-23s feature a trio of age-eligible players in MLS: Randall Leal (FC Cincinnati), Luis Diaz (Columbus) and Marvin Loria (Portland). Only Leal played (and scored) in qualifying series against Guatemala (3-0 win away, 2-0 loss at home).

Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic created a surprise when it beat Saint Kitts & Nevis, 2-0, on the road in overtime in the final round of Caribbean qualifying to reach the Concacaf under-23 finals for the first time. (Haiti beat Barbados, 4-0, to grab the other Caribbean berth.)

The DR goals were scored by Ronaldo Vasquez and Dorny Romero, both regulars on the senior national team.

Group A Schedule:
Friday, March 20 (Jalisco Stadium)
USA vs. Costa Rica
Mexico vs. Dominican Republic
Monday, March 23 (Akron Stadium)
USA vs. Dominican Republic
Mexico vs. Costa Rica
Thursday, March 26 (Jalisco Stadium)
USA vs. Mexico
Costa Rica vs. Dominican Republic

2 comments about "Men's Olympic qualifying: USA draws 'Group of Death' in Guadalajara".
  1. Bob Ashpole, January 10, 2020 at 6:07 a.m.

    Interesting article and topic.

  2. Eric Jensen, January 10, 2020 at 10:19 a.m.

    Excited to see the group, and jonesing for some good international soccer. After the u20 we performance, lots of potential here. Klinsmann called out usa's failure to make the olympics as significant before he left, and it looks the federation is taking Olympic qualification very seriously this time around. Good to see.

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