YNT Oct 21, 2011
Peter Nowak (right) led the U-23 team in 2008 and coached Jozy Altidore (left) at the Beijing Olympics.
Up until and including the 1988 Seoul Games, the Olympic soccer tournament was an unrestricted event, and thus the U.S. Olympic Soccer Team was essentially the U.S. National Team. The 1992 Barcelona Games proved to be the turning point in the Olympic soccer tournament, when the tournament was contested as an Under-23 event for the first time. Including that tournament, the U.S. has qualified for four out of the last five Olympics.
With Caleb Porter being named the U-23 head coach, the Akron man adds his name to a short list of influential figures who have coached the U-23 team as they attempt to qualify for the Olympics.
In 1992 the head coach was Lothar Osiander. The former Men's National Team and LA Galaxy manager was leading the team to a second-consecutive Olympics, but the first with a U-23 makeup. After rolling through qualifying the team went 1-1-1 in Barcelona.
In 1996 the U.S. automatically qualified for the Olympics in Atlanta and the team was coached by Bruce Arena. Arena led the team to a 1-1-1 showing at the Olympics and of course would later coach the MNT, leading some of the players he coached on the U-23 team to the quarterfinals of the FIFA World Cup in 2002.
Clive Charles was the U-23 head coach in 2000 and was the architect of the most successful U-23 team in the programs history. After advancing through qualifying, an Olympic team featuring players like Landon Donovan, Ben Olsen, Josh Wolff and John O'Brien progressed to the medal round in Sydney before eventually finishing in 4th place.
In 2004 Glenn Myernick was the head coach of a U-23 team that had the unfortunate luck of coming up against a Mexico team in a make-or-break match in Guadalajara. In front of 60,000 the U.S. succumbed to a 4-0 defeat and was eliminated from the Olympics.
Four years later Peter Nowak was the U-23 coach as the USA progressed through qualifying, tying Cuba and rattling off three straight wins against Panama, Honduras and Canada. Those results booked the team a spot in Beijing where they would come agonizingly close to navigating the group of death before falling to Nigeria in the final game.
Porter is the next in this line of U-23 coaches with a chance to take their team to the Olympics, in this case London 2012. The U-23/U-20 camp next month is the first step building towards qualifying next year.