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Americans at home: MLS youth development will be tested in Olympic qualifying

An exciting crop of players from MLS leads the way in Olympic qualifying

SOCCER: NOV 08 MLS - Colorado Rapids at Houston Dynamo Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The US Men’s National Team has a chance to qualify for its first Olympic tournament since 2008. Failing to reach the tournament in the past two cycles has reflected the overall struggles of the US Men’s program culminating in being eliminated from the 2018 World Cup in the Hex. However, in recent years the team has made huge strides in producing youth talent thanks in significant degree to the success of MLS academies developing talent. The recent success will be put to the test from March 18-30 in Mexico.

Of the 31 players called into camp prior to the tournament, all but two have ties to MLS clubs or academies and the core of the team will rest on players in or developed by the domestic league. In the past few Olympic cycles, that has not exactly been reassuring. The likes of Bill Hamid, Perry Kitchen, and Brek Shea, and later Wil Trapp, Emerson Hyndman, and Jerome Kiesewetter were eliminated and watched Mexico and Honduras represent Concacaf. It seems like this is a stronger group, possibly the strongest group, that the US has sent to a qualifying tournament and the team should be favorites to qualify alongside Mexico.

Qualifying for the Olympics will also allow the US to gauge how it fares against the best young players in the world heading into the 2026 World Cup qualifying cycle. France, Germany, Spain, Argentina, and Brazil have already qualified. Sending the Stars and Stripes against their young players be a challenge the team wouldn’t otherwise have. In addition, with MLS recently having success selling players abroad, the tournament will also be a showcase for the league to potentially put its talent in the display window before European seasons begin.