Concacaf, the governing body of North American soccer, released the preliminary rosters for next month’s Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Mexico on Tuesday.
The competition kicks off on March 18 with the USA against Costa Rica. USA plays Dominican Republic on March 21, and then wraps up group play against Mexico on March 24. The top two teams from each group (Honduras, Canada, El Salvador, and Haiti are in the other group) advance to the semifinals on March 28. The two winners of the semifinal game earn a spot at the 2021 Olympic Games.
USA has struggled with the U23 age group - the team for the men’s Olympic qualifying - over the last two decades. The USA men’s team has only qualified for the Olympics once in the last 20 years, which came in 2008. The Federation is hoping to break that streak with this year’s group. Head coach Jason Kreis has been working with this group since 2019 when he was appointed as the U23 head coach.
Kreis had a group of 20 lined up for qualifying last year in March, but the event was canceled due to the pandemic. A year later, the squads are being reassembled to hopefully move forward with the qualifying process.
Richard Ledezma and Paxton Pomykal are two players from the 20-man roster last year that are not on the preliminary roster for this year’s event. Ledezma tore his ACL in December and will miss the whole club season. He picked up the injury while playing for his club, PSV, in the Europa League. Pomykal is also recovering for an injury he suffered last season. He had surgery in September and was anticipated to have a six-month recovery period.
Reggie Cannon, Mark McKenzie, and Erik Palmer-Brown are the other three players from the 2020 squad who are not on the preliminary roster for the USA. All three are having standout seasons with their European clubs and likely too important to the club’s success to be released for the event. The loss of the trio will test the depth of the USA defense.
Among the noteworthy new names on the roster, LA Galaxy attacking midfielder Efrain Alvarez is listed on the USA preliminary roster - as well as the Mexico preliminary roster. Alvarez played for USA at the U15 level. He has since represented Mexico at the U17 age group including at the 2019 U17 World Cup. Alvarez will have his pick of which team to represent at this level.
Former U.S. Youth National Team players also appear on other national team rosters. Sebastian Elney is on the roster for Haiti. Danilo Acosta is on the roster for Honduras. Alejandro Zendejas is on the Mexico roster.
Recent Inter Miami Homegrown signing Edson Azcona, born in 2003, made the roster for Dominican Republic. Denver recruit AJ Francois also made the Dominican Republic roster. Francois is listed as a member of Austin Bold on the Concacaf list. He most recently played for Lonestar in the Boys ECNL. Sebastian Manon, a Dartmouth commit for the class of 2022, is also part of the Dominican Republic list. Manon plays for Taft School and Black Rock FC. He was previously the captain of the Dominican Republic U20 team.
USA listed three players born in 2003 on the preliminary roster: Caden Clark, Cade Cowell, and Ricardo Pepi. They are among the youngest players on the preliminary roster for the event, and eligible for the 2023 U20 World Cup.
USA Preliminary Roster
Brenden Aaronson, Efrain Alvarez, Frankie Amaya, Julian Araugo, Cole Bassett, George Bello, Gianluca Busio, Drake Callender, Caden Clark, Cade Cowell, Konrad de la Fuente, Johnny Cardoso, Hassani Dotson, Kyle Duncan, Jeremy Ebobisse, Marco Farfan, Jesus Ferreira, Matt Freese, Justen Glad, Chris Gloster, Aaron Herrera, Aboubacar Keita, Henry Kessler, Jonathan Klinsmann, Brooks Lennon, Jonathan Lewis, Ulysses Llanez, JT Marcinkowski, Benji Michel, Djodje Mihailovic, David Ochoa, Keaton Parks, Ricardo Pepi, Andres Perea, Mauricio Pineda, Donovan Pines, Bryan Reynolds, Miles Robinson, James Sands, Sebastian Saucedo, Brady Scott, Brandon Servania, Sebastian Soto, Tanner Tessmann, Auston Trusty, Sam Vines, Eryk Williamson, Jackson Yueill