The USMNT learned their path to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 2008 on Thursday. The draw for qualifying matched up the Americans in an extremely difficult group alongside the confederation’s other two top teams.
The U.S. will face off against both Costa Rica and Mexico in the group stage of qualifying, meaning at least on formidable Concacaf power will be left out of the knockout rounds. The Dominican Republic was the fourth team drawn into Group A.
Group A: United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic
Group B: Honduras, Canada, El Salvador, Haiti
It all begins on Friday, March 20 for what will likely be the most pivotal matchup in the group as the U.S. plays Costa Rica. With Mexico the likely favorites in the group, the second place spot could very well be decided by the result of this opening match. If either team loses, it would be a massive blow to their qualification chances.
Jason Kreis’ side follow that all-important opener with a match against the Dominican Republic three days later on March 23. The Americans will be heavy favorites in this one and must take all three points.
The group finale on March 26 will see old foes Mexico and the USA face-off. Who knows what the scenarios will be heading into this. It could have massive implications if the first two results don’t go either team’s way. Or, in a perfect scenario, it could be a matchup to decide who wins the group and gets the more favorable opponent in the semifinals.
Winners of each semifinal matchup will earn qualification to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. While the losers will miss out.
It’s definitely a tough road for the Americans to bust their Olympics slump. It also doesn’t help matters that the U.S. youth coaching infrastructure is currently being dismantled and rebuilt with whatever leftover junk the federation can find.
However, the loaded group could work to their advantage. It really all comes down to the match against Costa Rica. If they can get off to a hot start, something American youth teams do pretty well in qualifying, and get three points against Los Ticos, it could come down to one semifinal to clinch qualification.
How do you feel about the U-23’s chances after seeing their group?