The USMNT’s decade-long drought of not qualifying for the Summer Olympics could face yet another obstacle. According to journalist Charles Boehm, Major League Soccer teams are ready to decline potential call-ups for this month’s Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
#USMNT subplot to follow this spring: I'm hearing multiple MLS teams are set to decline callups for Olympic-eligible US U-23 players, b/c they're needed by the clubs. Would be something of a break in the tradition of MLS granting those even tho they're not required to by FIFA.— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) March 5, 2020
Dealing with clubs not releasing players for their qualifying attempts is nothing new for U.S. Soccer. Whether it’s Olympic qualifying or other important youth tournaments, it’s very rare for American youth national teams to get all the talented players they want together. These particular tournaments being played outside of FIFA international dates allows for any club to deny the release of any player called up.
In the past, there’s been a sort of unwritten agreement between MLS and U.S. Soccer where most, if not all, players called up from MLS would be allowed to go and represent their country on the international stage. It appears that will not be the case anymore. This report falls in line with previous ones like Doug McIntyre of Yahoo! Sports saying Atlanta United have adopted a blanket philosophy of not releasing any of their players for non-FIFA dates.
Atlanta United’s Miles Robinson will likely miss Olympic qualifying—and he’d definitely miss Tokyo 2020 if the U-23 #USMNT makes it—because of a new club policy. Details in Thought 26: https://t.co/irXbZLMiG7— Doug McIntyre (@ByDougMcIntyre) February 29, 2020
This development is quite disappointing considering Gregg Berhalter’s stated goal of making sure the U.S. U-23’s break their Olympics drought in 2020. The already questionable roster selection process seems to have become even more murkier.
The good news is that U.S. Soccer and Berhalter have been working hard with European teams over the past six months to try and get players released for these non-FIFA dates. During the team’s annual January camp, Berhalter was able to secure the release of Uly Llanez from Wolfsburg and he went on to make his debut. Hopefully this trend continues and other clubs around Europe are willing to comply with these requests. If not, it could be three Olympics in a row without an American men’s team. No matter how you want to spin it, that would be a terrible scenario for all of American soccer.