The failure of the United States in its most recent attempt to qualify for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament is not new, but in addition to the disappointment of the elimination against Honduras in the pre-Olympic tournament in Guadalajara, it left a poorly planned process that, it is assumed, would lead to their senior team to have the best team in many years for the World Cup in Qatar 2022 and, mainly, that of 2026, in which they will be organizers together with Mexico and Canada.
The defeat of the United States means that they will miss their third Olympic Games in a row, since since the Olympics in 2008, and now they have not been able to qualify for four of the last five editions.
Unlike the women’s team, which will represent the United States in Tokyo and with high hopes of winning its fifth gold medal, the men’s team maintains the tendency to look down on this tournament.
The men’s Olympic tournament has been restricted to players under 23 years of age since 1992, but for the United States it seems not to be a priority, especially at a time when its young players are attracting attention in the main leagues in Europe as rarely has happened.
The United States federation bet on Jason Kreis, an MLS veteran, who tried to make the most of the talent produced by the league’s recent investments in player development.
The explanation for the elimination seems simple, but it is not far from being a mismanagement of its resources. The holders of the United States who played the pre-Olympic are from MLS teams, since their best players did not attend because they were in Europe, such as Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Sergiño Dest and Gio Reyna, because their clubs were not obliged to yield them.
LOSE OR WIN?
Although the failure is notorious, the circumstances played against him, and even so, the United States has enough material to dream, although part of the process of the young people could affect having to compete at forced marches in a exhausting eliminatory and summer tournaments that will outline the definitive team for Qatar 2022.
It is common to read and hear about the number of young players the senior team coached by Gregg Berhalter, who is 8-0-1 in his last nine games, will have at his disposal.
The conditions for the US pre-Olympic were many, not being able to count on the Europeans and bet on MLS players who had not played a competitive match in months.
But hope is not diminishing in the United States, although the generation will lose the opportunity to test themselves in the Olympics, the reality is that they will bet on the senior tournaments, and that can be an advantage.
Elimination, in fact, can be a major team rebuilding opportunity. The Olympic Games would have demanded too much from them in terms of logistics, with travel, quarantines and other conditions to play a tournament in distant lands.
There is no way it is considered a lost generation. The Olympic medal is not the challenge the United States needs. It was only a test, an option to prepare, to blanket the team in a competitive and demanding tournament, but their real goal must be the next two World Cups.
But the talent headed by Pulisic, Reyna, Dest and Mckennie will be there, available to Berhalter, without the need to send them to Tokyo and wait for them to function as the biggest representative.
All Europeans will have the advantage of avoiding the Tokyo Olympic tournament, which takes place just before the 2021-2022 season begins, that will allow them to do their preseason and reduce the load of matches.
Nations League, Gold Cup and the World Cup qualifier will be played in the fall. The gamble may turn out better for the United States, not having to deal with European clubs to have their best players at the Olympics. Thus, the best generation can skip the challenge of Tokyo 2020 and focus better on Qatar 2022 and then 2026.