Christian Pulisic wants to play in Olympics, but it’s complicated

Christian Pulisic
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Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, one of the U.S.’ top male soccer players, said Wednesday that he would like to play in the Olympics, but that’s not something he controls.

“The Olympics is something that is, of course, a massive honor to play in. To represent your country in an Olympics would be amazing,” Pulisic said when asked if he’d be interested in playing in the Olympics. “It’s something I’ve thought about and I have wanted to play in. Obviously, I can’t control exactly what goes on and what is best for me at the time and what’s best for the team at the time, I obviously can’t say. But it is something that I would like to play in.”

The U.S. men play a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying on Sunday in Mexico against, likely, Canada or Honduras.

They failed to qualify for the Olympics in 2012 and 2016.

Pulisic, 22, is one of many U.S. stars who are age-eligible for the under-23 qualifying tournament but are not on the roster. That’s in large part because clubs aren’t required to release players for Olympic qualifying, and it’s midseason for the top European leagues.

Complicating matters: clubs aren’t required to release players for the Olympics, either. But they are required to release players for the Gold Cup, a senior tournament for the U.S. and other CONCACAF national teams that runs during the Olympics (but, and this may be important, finishes six days before the Olympic final).

“I’m not the one to answer that question,” about players in the Olympics, U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter said Wednesday. “The one to answer that question are the players’ clubs. We have to sit and have conversations with these clubs. We have to say, OK, guys, here’s what’s coming up in the calendar. You have Nations League [in early June in a FIFA window]. You have Gold Cup. You have Olympics. You have World Cup qualifying in three [FIFA] windows in the fall. And then 2022, you have January and March [World Cup qualifying in FIFA windows]. So, what do you think, guys? You want to release your players for the Olympics, and what are they going to say? It’s an uphill battle that we’re fighting.”

Berhalter said that, in a perfect world, he would like to see the best players in the Olympics.

“I’m just not sure that’s going to happen,” Berhalter said. “I’m not sure the clubs are going to allow the players to go.”

Berhalter said it’s also not realistic for the Gold Cup roster to be mostly Europe-based players after their 2020-21 club seasons and Nations League. They would miss 2021-22 preseason time, too.

If Pulisic is released by Chelsea for the Olympics, the decision falls on the U.S. to choose between the Gold Cup and the Tokyo Games, which is mostly for players 23 and under. Or neither and save him for World Cup qualifying later in 2021.

It brings to mind what happened five years ago, when a deal was struck among Brazil, FC Barcelona and Neymar to allow him to play in the Rio Olympics but not Copa America Centenario, which was a tournament for which clubs were required to release players. The difference: Copa America ended before the Rio Games.

For Pulisic, he is guaranteed to be allowed to play for the U.S. in late July and early August. It’s just a matter of which, if either, tournament is preferred by his club and, potentially, U.S. Soccer.

Other American stars in a similar situation to Pulisic: Weston McKennie of Juventus, Gio Reyna of Borussia Dortmund, Sergiño Dest of Barcelona and Tyler Adams of Leipzig.

The U.S. is so stocked with young talent that all of them are age-eligible for the Olympics (born on or after Jan. 1, 1997) without having to use one of up to three over-age exceptions.

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw, scores

French Open Men's Draw
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

All of the American men lost before the fourth round. The last U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals was Andre Agassi in 2003.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw

Coco Gauff, Iga Swiatek set French Open rematch

Coco Gauff French Open

Coco Gauff swept into the French Open quarterfinals, where she plays Iga Swiatek in a rematch of last year’s final.

Gauff, the sixth seed, beat 100th-ranked Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 7-5, 6-2 in the fourth round. She next plays the top seed Swiatek, who later Monday advanced after 66th-ranked Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko retired down 5-1 after taking a medical timeout due to illness.

Gauff earned a 37th consecutive win over a player ranked outside the top 50, dating to February 2022. She hasn’t faced a player in the world top 60 in four matches at Roland Garros, but the degree of difficulty ratchets up in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

Swiatek won all 12 sets she’s played against Gauff, who at 19 is the only teenager in the top 49 in the world. Gauff said last week that there’s no point in revisiting last year’s final — a 6-1, 6-3 affair — but said Monday that she should rewatch that match because they haven’t met on clay since.

“I don’t want to make the final my biggest accomplishment,” she said. “Since last year I have been wanting to play her, especially at this tournament. I figured that it was going to happen, because I figured I was going to do well, and she was going to do well.

“The way my career has gone so far, if I see a level, and if I’m not quite there at that level, I know I have to improve, and I feel like you don’t really know what you have to improve on until you see that level.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Also Monday, No. 7 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia dispatched 36th-ranked American Bernarda Pera 6-3, 6-1, breaking all eight of Pera’s service games.

Jabeur, runner-up at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, has now reached the quarterfinals of all four majors.

Jabeur next faces 14th-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia, who won 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-5 over Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo, who played on a protected ranking of 68. Haddad Maia became the second Brazilian woman to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal in the Open Era (since 1968) after Maria Bueno, who won seven majors from 1959-1966.

Pera, a 28 year-old born in Croatia, was the oldest U.S. singles player to make the fourth round of a major for the first time since Jill Craybas at 2005 Wimbledon. Her defeat left Gauff as the lone American singles player remaining out of the 35 entered in the main draws.

The last American to win a major singles title was Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought matches the longest in history (since 1877) for American men and women combined.

In the men’s draw, 2022 French Open runner-up Casper Ruud reached the quarterfinals by beating 35th-ranked Chilean Nicolas Jarry 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-5. He’ll next play sixth seed Holger Rune of Denmark, a 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (7) winner over 23rd seed Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina.

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