The United States, who qualified automatically for the final round of qualifying as the host country, will be joined in Group D by Canada (the Group A winner) and Honduras (the Group B runner- up). In Group E, favored Mexico (Group B winner) will face off against Guatemala (Group A runner-up) and Panama (Group C winner).
The U.S. Under-23 National Team will open the tournament on Friday, April 21 vs. Honduras at 8 p.m. (ET), and finish the opening round against Canada on Tuesday, April 25 at 8 p.m. (ET).
"We've got a tough group, that's for sure," said Charles, whose U-23 squad is 2-2 overall in 2000 play. "We've seen Canada a lot, and they're never an easy team to play. I don't think we've ever played Honduras, so we've got some work to do to get ready for the opener. Every game is crucial." The United States has faced Canada more times than any other country over the past two years. In their four previous meetings, the U.S. is unbeaten with a 2-0-2 record against its neighbors from the North. The last contest was of huge importance, as a young U.S. squad used a late goal from Landon Donovan to defeat Canada 2-1 on their home soil to earn the bronze medal at the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg on August 6. Earlier last year, the U.S. owned most of the play but needed a Josh Wolff goal to tie Canada in an international friendly at lovely Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, S.C. on May 19. The Americans also met Canada twice in 1998, earning a win and another draw in two games played in the Portland area.
The opening game will pit the U.S. Under-23's against Honduras, a team that they have faced just five times in the 1990's and own a 3-2-0 record against. In the last meeting, Honduras defeated the U.S. 2-1 on July 25, 1999 in the opening round of the 1999 Pan American Games. Honduras also defeated the U.S. (4-0) in the 1995 Pan American games, but the U.S. beat the Central American team twice in Olympic Qualifying in 1992. The first meeting of the decade between the sides was in the 1991 Pan American Games as the U.S. defeated Honduras, 2-1, in Santiago, Cuba. The U.S. finished the round-robin group play with an unblemished 3-0 mark and would go on to defeat Cuba in the semis and Mexico in the finals for their first-ever Gold Medal at the Pan American Games. Honduras, who tied Mexico 2-2 on April 4 in Group B qualifying and finished in second place in the so-called "Group of Death," is also coming off solid results from their full men's national team in the 2000 Gold Cup, which was played in February of this year.
To prepare for the rapidly-approaching tournament, the U.S. Under-23 team kicked off a week-long training camp in the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., area today. During the week, the Olympic hopefuls will compete in two exhibitions: tomorrow (April 12) versus the Miami Fusion at Lockhart Stadium and Saturday (April 15) against a Miami Select team at Florida Atlantic University.
|Final Round--Qualifying--Hershey, Pa., USA|
(April 21-30, 2000)
|Group D||USA (Host), Canada (Group A first place), Honduras (Group B second place)|
|Group E||Panama (Group C first place), Mexico (Group B first place), Guatemala (Group A second place)|
|April 21||Guatemala vs. Panama||Hersheypark Stadium||5:30 p.m.|
|April 21||United States vs. Honduras||Hersheypark Stadium||8:00 p.m.|
|April 23||Canada vs. Honduras||Hersheypark Stadium||1:00 p.m.|
|April 23||Mexico vs. Guatemala||Hersheypark Stadium||3:30 p.m.|
|April 25||Panama vs. Mexico||Hersheypark Stadium||5:30 p.m.|
|April 25||United States vs. Canada||Hersheypark Stadium||8:00 p.m.|
|April 28||Group D 1st vs. Group E 2nd*||Hersheypark Stadium||5:30 p.m.|
|April 28||Group E 1st vs. Group D 2nd*||Hersheypark Stadium||8:00 p.m.|
|Note: If USA qualifies for semifinals, USA will play at 8 p.m. ET regardless of placement.|
|April 30||Third-place (Semifinal losers)||Hersheypark Stadium||1:00 p.m.|
|April 30||Championship (Semifinal winners)*||Hersheypark Stadium||3:30 p.m.|
|* Both finalists (Semifinal winners) advance to the 2000 Olympics|
in Sydney, Australia, September 13-30, 2000.