U.S. Soccer has both fortunate and unfortunate situations when it comes to Rio 2016 Olympic men’s soccer qualifying.
Positively, it could field a roster for the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in October that includes two World Cup players, John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin. Olympic qualifying is strictly for the under-23 age group rosters, but Brooks and Yedlin are young enough.
Negatively, the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament and the senior national team’s 2017 Confederations Cup playoff with Mexico happen at the same time.
U.S. men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann — an Olympic bronze medalist with Germany in 1988 — decided it was more important for Brooks and Yedlin to be with the senior national team than the Olympic qualifying team.
So, the U.S. will attempt to qualify for the 2016 Olympic men’s soccer tournament without the two most recognizable names available to its U-23 roster.
The Oct. 10 semifinal winners in the CONCACAF U-23 tournament will qualify for Rio, with the third-place nation going to a playoff with Colombia.
If the U.S. qualifies for Rio, Brooks and Yedlin could be put on the Olympic roster without the U.S. having to use any of its three Olympic over-age exceptions on them. In that case, the 2016 U.S. Olympic men’s soccer team could include five players with World Cup experience, a record high.
In 2012, Jozy Altidore was the one World Cup veteran young enough for U-23 Olympic qualifying, but he was not released from his European club team to play in the CONCACAF tournament, which didn’t occur during a FIFA international date window. Without him, the U.S. didn’t reach the Olympic qualifying semifinals and failed to make it to London 2012.
In 2008, no U.S. players with World Cup experience were young enough for U-23 Olympic qualifying.
In 2004, Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley were the two World Cup veterans young enough for U-23 Olympic qualifying, and both played in the CONCACAF tournament. The U.S. failed to qualify for Athens 2004.
In 2000, no U.S. players with World Cup experience were young enough for U-23 Olympic qualifying.
In 1996, the U.S. did not have to go through qualifying for the Olympics because it had an automatic spot as the host nation in Atlanta. Claudio Reyna was the one World Cup veteran young enough for U-23 play, and he was named to the Olympic team.