U.S. youth national team head coach Jason Kreis has released his roster for the upcoming Olympic qualification, and while there are some big-name absentees, there is also plenty of exciting young talent ready to take the field in the hopes of seeing the United States reach the main event for the first time since 2008.
Kreis was forced to work around a significant number of hurdles while constructing his roster, with a number of top American young talent abroad in Europe and unavailable, while some domestic clubs blocked selection as well. Clubs are not required to release players for youth international tournaments, and some took advantage of that.
Chelsea winger Christian Pulisic was never going to be released by Chelsea and is injured to boot, as is RB Leipzig’s Tyler Adams. Schalke did not make regular starter Weston McKennie available, while Werder Bremen has Josh Sargent playing a role as the backup striker. Borussia Dortmund also did not make 17-year-old Giovanni Reyna available for selection, with the young attacker earning a valuable substitute role for the club in both league and European play. Sergino Dest is just 19 but playing a key role for Ajax having started each of the last six Eredivisie games.
PSV Eindhoven bucked the European trend and allowed both Richie Ledezma and Chris Gloster to take part, although neither plays a role for the senior squad. The same is said for Wolfsburg’s Ulysses Llanez, while Ajax youth player Alex Mendez is not part of the squad.
Domestically, Atlanta United blocked Miles Robinson and Brooks Lennon from selection, leaving a hole in defense. FC Dallas came through and allowed rising star Paxton Pomykal to be selected alongside teammates Reggie Cannon and Jesus Ferreira. The San Jose Earthquakes will allow Jackson Yueill to take part, while the Philadelphia Union released Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie and the Colorado Rapids conceded to Jonathan Lewis.
The United States begins group stage play on March 20, drawn alongside Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. The top two from the group advance to the knockout phase where teams just have to win a semifinal game to qualify for the Olympics. The final is scheduled for April 1.
“With a lot of games in a short amount of time, we will need the contributions of all 20 players on this roster to achieve our ultimate goal of qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo,” Kreis said in the official team release. “This is our sixth time together with this U-23 group, so I think we have a real firm understanding of how we want to play and who we want to be.”