The U.S. men’s soccer team failed to qualify for a third consecutive Olympics, its longest drought between Olympic appearances in more than 50 years.
Honduras beat the U.S. 2-1 in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match to climax a CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament for players 24 and younger in Mexico on Sunday.
“It’s a tragedy,” U.S. coach Jason Kreis said.
Honduras, a nation with the population of Michigan, also beat the U.S. in an Olympic qualifier for the 2016 Rio Games.
The U.S. men last played in the Olympics in 2008, when an 18-year-old Freddy Adu scored the clinching goal in qualifying. They will miss three consecutive Olympics for the first time since 1960, 1964 and 1968 — a stretch where the U.S. also didn’t appear in any World Cup from 1954 through 1986.
The U.S. senior team also failed to qualify for the last World Cup in 2018, but has since developed a bevy of young talent. Most of those players were young enough for Olympic qualifying, but none of the notables from top European leagues were named to the roster.
That’s at least in part because clubs are not required to release players for two-week Olympic qualifying (the U.S. also had a pre-tournament training camp that began March 1).
However, some of those stars were absent from their clubs this past week for senior national team friendlies in Europe against Jamaica and Northern Ireland, including captain Christian Pulisic of Chelsea, Sergiño Dest of Barcelona and Gio Reyna of Borussia Dortmund.
That created a moving sight on Sunday night — prominent U.S. players gathered not on a soccer field in Guadalajara, but in a Belfast room watching the Honduras match on a screen after midnight.
The U.S.’ only Olympic men’s soccer medals came at the 1904 St. Louis Games, when all participants won medals as only three club teams from Canada and the U.S. competed.
The Olympic men’s soccer tournament field includes most of the world powers representing eight of the last nine World Cup winners.
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