Don’t look now, but the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship is just over a month away from kicking off, and Jurgen Klinsmann is beginning to worry about which key players will and won’t be available for the start of the United States U-23 team’s qualifying campaign.
While Klinsmann won’t be coaching the U-23 squad himself (he’ll be busy with the senior team in their Confederations Cup playoff against Mexico on Oct. 10), Klinsmann’s role as technical director and overseer of the entire U.S. Soccer program makes him the one responsible for liaising with the involved players’ club sides.
In a video released by USSoccer.com on Monday (above video), Klinsmann explains the intricacies — and difficulties — of getting the club teams of that many quality players to release their prized possessions for international duty when they don’t necessarily have to do so.
“We need help from the clubs overseas, we need help from the clubs here in MLS, in order to get the players released, especially [since] the Olympic qualifiers start outside of the release dates, so we badly need those players in order to qualify for Rio de Janeiro. Hopefully we get the support by all the clubs to get the players in.”
The tournament is scheduled to begin Thursday, Oct. 1, when the Yanks will face Canada at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., and that’s a problem, because the international window for early October doesn’t begin until Monday, Oct. 5. The US U-23 squad will play its three games in Group A on Oct. 1, 3 and 6. Two teams advance from each four-team group. The two semifinals winners advance to the final and automatically qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
Regarding players likely to be called up to the Olympic qualifying team, the following players’ club teams have league games that will conflict with Klinsmann’s request to release them for the start of the tournament:
- Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC — Saturday, Oct. 3, vs. New York Red Bulls
- Rubio Rubin, FC Utrecht — Oct. 3, vs. Excelsior
- Matt Miazga, New York Red Bulls — Oct. 3, vs. Columbus Crew SC
- Gedion Zelalem, Rangers (on loan) — Oct. 3, vs. Falkirk
- Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas — Oct. 4, vs. Houston Dynamo
- Tommy Thompson, San Jose Earthquakes — Oct. 4, vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
- Luis Gil, Real Salt Lake — Sunday, Oct. 4, vs. Colorado Rapids
- Jose Villarreal, LA Galaxy — Oct. 4, vs. Seattle Sounders
- Dillon Serna, Colorado Rapids — Oct. 4, vs. Real Salt Lake
- Fatai Alashe, San Jose Earthquakes — Oct. 4, vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
- Tyler Turner, Orlando City SC — Oct. 3, vs. Montreal Imapct
- Christian Dean, Vancouver Whitecaps — Oct. 3, vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Key players perhaps unaffected due to their various club situations:
- Emerson Hyndman, Fulham — currently playing for U-21 side
- Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tottenham Hotspur — currently playing for U-21 side
- Paul Arriola, Club Tijuana — currently a bench player
October is just about worst time of the calendar year for the Americans in which CONCACAF could have planned to stage this tournament, from a player availability standpoint — MLS’s 2015 regular season will be winding down at that time with the season’s final matchday taking place Oct. 25.
Perhaps breaking apart the “tournament” and spreading it out over the September and October international dates would have better suited Klinsmann and the US U-23 team, but contrary to popular belief, CONCACAF doesn’t exist simply to cater to the US and Mexican federations on any and all matters.
Qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio is by no means a foregone conclusion for the American men (remember the 2012 qualifying debacle?), and potentially being forced to begin their quest without a number of their best players will only make it more of a challenge and require the group’s depth to exceed expectations.