2020 Olympics

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FIFA extends men’s age limit for Tokyo Olympics due to virus

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GENEVA — FIFA has extended the age limit for the men’s soccer tournament at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The amended Olympic rule on Friday retains the “players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997” standard for the Tokyo Games following a one-year postponement agreed last week by the International Olympic Committee and Japanese authorities.

It means players eligible for the intended under-23 tournament in 2020 can still play in Japan at age 24 next year. Men’s soccer kicks off ahead of the July 23, 2021 opening ceremony in Tokyo.

FIFA also postponed two women’s age-group World Cups due this year in Central America and India, and confirmed no international games for men and women will be played in the early June dates protected for national team call-ups.

Soccer’s world body said “health must always be the first priority and the main criteria in any decision-making process, especially in these challenging times.”

The Olympic decision was made by a FIFA panel of soccer officials worldwide, created to address the soccer shutdown during the health crisis.

The 16 men’s teams at the Tokyo Olympics next year can also select three over-age players in their rosters. A stellar lineup includes Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Spain.

Two women’s World Cup tournaments — the Under-20s hosted by Panama and Costa Rica in August and September, and the Under-17s in India in November — are postponed. No new dates were announced.

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Until the COVID-19 outbreak, national team games scheduled in June included the 2020 European Championship, World Cup qualifying games in South America and Asia, and qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

After Euro 2020 was postponed for one year, UEFA hoped to schedule playoff games in June to confirm the last four places in a 24-nation lineup. Those playoffs were postponed indefinitely this week.

World Cup qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar now face uncertain scheduling in a congested calendar in Europe, South America and Asia.

FIFA said on Friday it would “organize bilateral discussions” with continental governing bodies “to finalize a revised match schedule pending health and safety developments.”

FIFA plans to direct hundreds of millions of dollars from its cash reserves to support a global emergency fund, and has agreed to appoint one official from each of the six soccer continents to coordinate the work.

What does Olympics postponement mean for U.S. men?

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The postponement of Tokyo 2020 means the United States U-23 men and their loaded roster will have to wait for their chance to qualify for a first Olympics since 2008.

That’s not news, but who comprises the qualifying roster might be.

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The cut-off birth date for the tournament was set for Jan. 1, 1997, but there’s some question as to whether the International Olympic Committee will move that forward a year or keep the original date.

Considering the amount of time coach Jason Kreis and U.S. Soccer have put into making this team a force, that’s a big question.

Who could the roster lose if the date gets moved to exclude 1997 birthdays? Jackson Yueill, Justen Glad, Erik Palmer-Brown, Sebastian Saucedo, Jeremy Ebobisse, JT Marcinkowski, Aaron Herrera, Hassani Dotson, and Jonathan Lewis.

That’s nine of the 20 Kreis named for qualifying. It would also removed injured or uncalled players like Antonee Robinson, Keaton Parks, Brooks Lennon, and Haji Wright.

It’s not a terrible worry, to be honest, because it does affect the field. Erick Aguirre, Cesar Montes, and Uriel Antuna are amongst 12 Mexican players who would miss the cut.

There will be also players 23-and-under who grow leaps and bounds as players in interim. It is, however, a worry.

If there’s a big winner, it’s probably Canada. Many of the key pieces for Mauro Biello’s Les Rouges are safe even if it’s moved to 1998.

Tokyo Olympics postponed until 2021

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The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until 2021, the IOC and the Tokyo Olympic Organizers have announced.

A joint-statement revealed that for the first-time in Olympic history the games will be delayed to another year as the games were due to take place this summer with the opening ceremony on July 24.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe the games have been rescheduled for an unspecified date in 2021 which will be no later than the summer.

“In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the [World Health Organization] today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community,” according to a joint statement from the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee. “The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present. Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

From a soccer perspective, the USWNT had already qualified for the Olympic soccer tournament as the four-time Gold medalists were aiming to build from the success of their 2019 World Cup win.

The USMNT haven’t qualified for the Olympic since Beijing in 2008 and Jason Kreis’ talented youngsters were heavily favored to get through CONCACAF Olympic qualifying which was due to take place in Mexico this month but was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Kreis: U.S. U-23 side can ‘put a flag down’ for USMNT

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U.S. U-23 men’s national team head coach Jason Kreis says his team has the potential to fuel the full national team into the right direction at a time it could really use a boost.’

The United States men have not qualified for the Olympics since 2008, and many view those failures as an obstacle in the mental development of the USMNT.

“It’s incredibly important,” Kreis said ahead of qualifying in Mexico. “It’s something that we want to correct and we want to correct it together. It’s a tremendous opportunity that stands in front of us, and a chance for us to have a positive rhetoric on the men’s side of U.S. Soccer.”

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In Kreis, the U.S. Olympic team has a leader who’s turned out 14 times for the full national team and appreciates the import of the Summer Games.

Given the brutal failure of the USMNT to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and the wealth of potential in the talent pool, Kreis says his men can deliver an invaluable experience on the road to the program’s success.

“There’s been a lot of doubting in the past two years, where the men’s side of the full national team and where we are going with all this,” Kreis told ProSoccerTalk. “I look at this group of young players and I’m really excited. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to put a flag down and say we are going in a positive direction.”

[ MORE: U.S. U-23 roster ]

Kreis also revealed that his side will friendly Haiti before CONCACAF Olympic qualifying begins versus Costa Rica on March 20. The U.S. will also face Mexico and the Dominican Republic in a tricky group.

The top two teams from each group make the semifinals, and the finalists earn automatic spots in Tokyo this summer.

Other notes:

  • Kreis said he’s not too bothered by European and MLS clubs who would not release players to his team: “There are clubs around the world and MLS that deny, but we knew that was going to happen. It is what it is. We are extremely happy with the squad we assembled.”
  • The goalkeeper pool of Matt Freese, JT Marcinkowski, and David Ochoa has a wide-open competition ahead of itself: “It’s a real interesting one and probably our most difficult decision.”
  • On Wolfsburg youngster Uly Llanez, “He made our roster through being in the January camp. We see a player who can help us in a number of areas,” Kreis said of Llanez.
  • San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Jackson Yueill has taken a “mega step forward” and Kreis sees “his potential as top top.”

USWNT hammer Mexico, secure Olympic spot

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Carson, Calif. (AP) Samantha Mewis scored twice and the USWNT secured a spot in the Tokyo Olympics with a 4-0 semifinal victory Friday night over Mexico in the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament.

Rose Lavelle and Christen Press also scored for the United States, which extended its unbeaten streak to 27 games.

The United States will face Canada in the tournament’s title game on Sunday. Canada earned the region’s other Olympic berth with a 1-0 victory over surprisingly resilient Costa Rica 1-0 in the earlier match Friday.

Canada has finished as runner up to the United States in the last three qualifying tournaments.

The top-ranked U.S. team is coming off a victory in the World Cup last summer in France. It was the team’s fourth title in soccer’s premier tournament.

The USWNT has made the field for every Olympics since soccer became an Olympic sport in 1996, and has won the gold medal four times. But the Americans were eliminated by Sweden in the quarterfinals four years ago in Brazil for the team’s earliest exit in the tournament.

Mexico, ranked No. 26 in the world, finished second in its group to draw the United States in the semis.

Mexico made the field for the 2004 Olympics, but has not been back since. However, Mexico is on the rise, boosted by a domestic women’s league. The team won its first two group-stage matches before falling 2-0 to Canada.

The USWNT swept its group stage matches without allowing a goal. Lindsey Horan led the way with five goals and Press added four. Neither Press nor Horan started against Mexico.

Lavelle’s goal in the fifth minute gave the United States an early lead before Sam Mewis scored on a set piece in the 14th, blasting the ball past Mexico goalkeeper Emily Alverado.

Carli Lloyd had an opportunity to pad the lead in the 61st minute, but her shot went over the goal. Mewis scored her second goal on a perfectly placed free kick from just outside the box in the 67th minute. It was Mewis’ 18th international goal.

Press, who came in as a substitute, scored on a chip in the 73rd. She has scored in six straight matches for the United States, including each of the qualifying matches.

It was defender Crystal Dunn’s 100th appearance with the U.S. national team.

Attendance for the match at Dignity Health Sports Park, home of the LA Galaxy, was announced at 11,292.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sportsc