Tim Howard unsure if MLS move will impact Olympic option

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U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard has “no idea” if his move to the MLS’ Colorado Rapids on July 4 will preclude him from a possible over-age place on the U.S. Olympic soccer team in August.

“I think that’s something that will have to get ironed out, if there’s even a possibility of it,” Howard said Sunday. “I think we have to qualify [for the Olympics] first. Then after that, I guess they select their over-age players, and then I think some people in Denver might have to sign off on that, which I don’t know how that’s going to go over. To answer your question, I have no idea.”

Howard will play for the Rapids as a high-priced Designated Player signing after he finishes the English Premier League season with Everton. The MLS season runs into late fall.

Howard, a 2000 Olympian, would be an intriguing but complicated option for a place on the Rio Olympic team.

First, the U.S. must beat Colombia in a home-and-home Olympic qualifying playoff later this month.

Not only are the Olympics in Brazil, where Howard was a wall for the U.S. at the 2014 World Cup, but he could also make his Olympic debut in Rio.

Howard made the 2000 U.S. Olympic team as the No. 2 goalkeeper and ascended to No. 1 when Adin Brown was taken off the Olympic team due to injury, two weeks before the Games.

The following day, Brown’s replacement was named — longtime U.S. men’s national team goalie and 1992 Olympian Brad Friedel. Friedel started every match for the U.S. at the Sydney Games en route to a fourth-place finish, relegating Howard to the bench.

In 2000, Howard was 21 years old, but this year he would have to be one of three over-age selections if he’s on the Olympic team. Like Friedel was in 2000.

All but three players on each Rio Olympic men’s soccer team must be born on or after Jan. 1, 1993, keeping the Olympic soccer squads to mostly under-23 players.

The last three U.S. Olympic soccer teams all included over-age goalies — Kasey Keller in 1996, Friedel in 2000 and Brad Guzan in 2008.

Keller and Friedel preceded Howard as U.S. starting goalies at World Cups. Guzan is Howard’s main competition to be the U.S.’ No. 1 goalie at June’s Copa America Centenario.

Clubs are required to release players to play in Copa America Centenario, with Guzan and Howard both likely to be on the U.S. roster for that North and South American tournament.

Clubs are not required to release players for the Olympics, meaning the Rapids could keep their high-priced acquisition Howard from competing in the Rio Games. The Rapids play three MLS games during the Olympics.

“It’s always an exciting prospect, but I think you’re talking about something that is far off in the distance,” Howard said of the Olympics. “My immediate focus is to finish out the season with Everton, play in the Copa America and then ultimately get myself out to Denver and start putting some pieces in place to be successful. Whatever happens after that, I don’t really know.”

Designated Players have been a part of MLS since 2007. The only U.S. Olympic soccer team during the Designated Player era — the Beijing 2008 squad — included zero MLS Designated Players.

NBC Olympics producer Seth Rubinroit contributed to this report.

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