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Projecting the USA U-23's roster for the Olympic qualifying playoff vs. Colombia

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The United States under-23 national team's four-year cycle culminates with two playoff matches against Colombia in March. Win and they redeem their 2012 predecessors for missing out on the Olympics, lose and they join them in shame.

This cycle has been a letdown from the very beginning. The 2013 U-20 graduates have been disappointing for both club and country almost across the board. So much so that Andi Herzog has been forced to rely heavily on the most recent crop of U-20 talent that advanced to the semifinals of the U-20 World Cup in 2015.

Talent is prevalent throughout the U-23 player pool, but much like the entire men's program, consistency and chemistry have been lacking for the majority of the cycle. Now they must string together a competitive roster and hope for something to click in the home-and-away playoff against Colombia. Here's who we think Herzog will call on when it matters most.


1. Ethan Horvath

2. Zack Steffen

3. Cody Cropper

Safeties: Jon Kempin, Charlie Horton

Horvath and Steffen are locks assuming their European teams release them for these matches. The Europa League standout, Horvath, likely has the upper hand for the starting job, while the talented Steffen will be a great insurance policy. Cody Cropper was thought to be the sure starter at the beginning of the cycle, but his form and national team performances have left much to be desired bumping him down the depth chart.


4. Kellyn Acosta

5. Matt Miazga

6. Tim Parker

7. Cameron Carter-Vickers

8. Brandon Vincent

9. Eric Miller

10. Dillon Serna

Safeties: Shane O'Neill, Oscar Sorto, Boyd Okwuonu

By far the thinnest of positions, the back line looks very weak at the full back positions. It's possible that Desevio Payne could be included and help tremendously, but with European clubs not required to release these players, he might be held back. The defensive hopes of the side will rely on the successful U-20 partnership of Carter-Vickers and Miazga.


11. Wil Trapp

12. Matt Polster

13. Emerson Hyndman

14. Gedion Zelalem

15. Luis Gil

16. Christian Pulisic

17. Caleb Stanko

18. Julian Green

Safeties: Gboly Ariyibi, Benji Joya, Marlon Hairston

Fatai Alashe is out of action with a sports hernia and his return is scheduled for right around the time of this playoff. It's very unlikely he'll be fit enough to be included which leaves a massive hole at the holding midfielder spot. Christian Pulisic has been a constant in the Borussia Dortmund matchday squad since the winter break, the only thing that could hinder his chances of a U-23 call-up is if Jurgen Klinsmann decides he wants him for the senior team.


19. Jerome Kiesewetter

20. Jordan Morris

21. Mario Rodriguez

22. Alonso Hernandez

23. Khiry Shelton

Safeties: Maki Tall, Jose Villarreal

While Jordan Morris will be asked to carry the goal scoring load, it's unfortunate that Rubio Rubin will likely miss out due to injury. Those two players together could have been something special. Instead, we're likely to see a one striker set up with Morris flanked by his good buddy Jerome Kiesewetter and a TBD player on the left flank. If the U.S. have any chance of clinching a spot in the 2016 Summer Olympics, Morris will need to be at the top of his game.