One year away from the London Games, the player pool for the men’s soccer team is growing rather than shrinking, with more young players succeeding in the professional ranks in Major League Soccer and leagues around the world.
With the head coach of the 2008 Olympic Team moving on to coach the Philadelphia Union in the MLS, a new coach is expected to be decided later this summer. Whoever the new coaches for the Olympic Team will be, their base of players can begin with those who competed at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt, and the 2011 CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Guatemala. Many of those players, who are still 22 and younger, have gone on to earn valuable playing time with their clubs.
Benefitting from these professional environments – though some players who may be part of the pool are still in college – the young Americans will come together later this year in the team’s first training camps and will form a team to be reckoned with.
Along with showcasing young, emerging talent in world soccer, current FIFA rules allow for three older players on each team, opening the door for virtually any American player to participate in the Games, should the Americans qualify.
- The 2012 U.S. Olympic Men’s Soccer Team will be made up of players born on or after Jan. 1, 1989, which means they will be 23 years old or younger when the Games kick off. There will also be an allowance for three “overage” players, who do not fit into that birthdate cutoff. (In 2008, the three overage players were goalkeeper Brad Guzan, defender Michael Parkhurst and forward Brian McBride.)
- Several players expected to be part of the player pool currently play professionally in England, including forward Conor Doyle (Derby County Wolves) and Sebastian Lletget (West Ham United).
- There will likely be a group of players representing Major League Soccer teams, including Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union) and Zarek Valentin (Chivas USA).
- Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore are the only two players from the Beijing Games who are still age-eligible to compete in London.
- In addition to Adu and Altidore, a number of players have been called to the full team who meet the age requirements of the 2012 Olympic Games. That group includes forward Juan Agudelo, defender Timmy Chandler, midfielder Mixx Diskerud, goalkeeper Sean Johnson, midfielder Brek Shea and defender Anthony Wallace during various training camps this year.
- A majority of the players expected to make up the player pool for the 2012 team will include those who participated in the 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup and the 2011 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship.
The qualifying tournament for the 2012 Games has yet to be finalized, but it will likely be set for early next year. The current format, called the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament, includes eight teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean placed into two groups of four. The top two teams in each group will meet in an all-important semifinal game that will send the winner to London, and the loser home for the summer.
In 2008, the U.S. won its qualifying group and faced Canada in the semifinal. The must-win game took place at Nashville’s LP Field and, in front of more than 13,000 fans, the Americans came away with a 3-0 victory to secure a place in Beijing.
The Olympic Men’s Soccer Team will likely begin programming this fall, after a coach is named for the squad and he begins to see the young talent first hand. Based on the 2008 cycle, CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying will be held early in 2012 and the coach will likely hold a number of training camps in preparation. The team will come together as much as possible for the remainder of 2011 and into early 2012, based on the players’ obligations to their professional clubs both in Major League Soccer and abroad.
Athlete Twitter Handles or Facebook Fan Pages
- Freddy Adu - @FreddyAdu11
- Jozy Altidore - @Jozy_Altidore
- Juan Agudelo - @JuanAgudelo17
- Conor Doyle - @ConorDoyle23
- Sean Johnson - @sjohn25
- Amobi Okugo - @amobisays
- Kelyn Rowe - @KRowe210
- Zarek Valentin - @zvalentin20