Game Notes: USA Resumes Quest for Olympic Spot vs. Colombia in 2016 Olympic Qualifying Playoff 1st Leg

CHICAGO (March 25, 2016) – The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team resumes its quest for a spot at the Olympics on Friday when it faces Colombia in the first leg of the 2016 Olympic Qualifying Playoff at Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Melendez in Barranquilla, Colombia. The match kicks off at 4:05 p.m. local time (5:05 p.m. ET) and will be broadcast live on FS1 and Univision Deportes Network (UDN).

The winner of the aggregate-goal series between the USA and Colombia will receive the 16th and final berth at the 2016 Olympic Football Men’s Tournament.

The return leg is set for Tuesday, March 29 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 p.m. CT [TICKETS], live on ESPN2 following the U.S. MNT’s World Cup Qualifying match against Guatemala at 6 p.m. CT.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: The CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship determined the region’s two direct entries into the Olympics, as well as a third which would play the second place team out of South America in a playoff. The USA won its group by winning all three games (see below), however fell in the semifinals to Honduras and missed out on direct entry. The team bounced back and won the third-place match against Canada to earn a place in the playoff. Mexico and Honduras claimed the two automatic berths from CONCACAF.

HOW COLOMBIA GOT HERE: With Brazil already holding a berth as host, the South American U-20 Championship in February 2015 determined the second direct entry for South America, given to the team that won the tournament. Two groups of five played a round-robin stage, from which the top three advanced. The six teams then played another round-robin stage, from where the top two teams were determined. Colombia finished third in the first phase, and then defeated Brazil 3-1 in its last match of the final stage to clinch second place. Argentina won the group. The top four teams also earned berths at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

WHICH COUNTRIES HAVE QUALIFIED? Fifteen countries have already qualified for the 16-team Men’s Olympic Football Tournament: Brazil as host; Argentina from the South American U-20 Championship; Nigeria, Algeria and South Africa from the CAF U-23 Championship; Japan, Korea Republic and Qatar from the AFC U-23 Championship; Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Portugal from the UEFA European U-21 Championship; Fiji from the OAC Pacific Games; and Mexico and Honduras from the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.

USA OLYMPIC HISTORY: The United States has competed in the Men’s Olympic finals 13 times, including five straight tournaments from 1984 to 2000. In addition, the U.S. qualified for – but did not compete in – the 1980 Moscow Games following a boycott by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The U.S. hopes to return to the Olympics for the first time since the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, where it posted a 1-1-1 record but did not advance past the group stage. The USA’s best showing in the Olympics came during the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, when the team defeated Japan in the quarterfinals and finished fourth in the event.

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U-23 MNT’S 23-MAN ROSTER: The roster includes players who play professionally in seven different countries, led by 12 from Major League Soccer, four each from England and Germany, two from Mexico, and one each from the Netherlands and Norway. Featured on the roster is Seattle Sounders FC forward Jordan Morris, who has earned nine caps with the full team, 2015 U.S. Soccer Young Player of the Year and recent Chelsea FC signing Matt Miazga, Bayern Munich midfielder Julian Green, who scored for the U.S. at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and VfB Stuttgart forward Jerome Kiesewetter, who won the Golden Boot at the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.

U.S. Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3):
Cody Cropper (Milton Keynes Dons), Ethan Horvath (Molde KJ), Tyler Miller (Seattle Sounders FC)

DEFENDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Miazga (Chelsea FC), Eric Miller (Colorado Rapids), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Desevio Payne (FC Groningen), Shane O’Neill (Cambridge United), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Luis Gil (Queretaro), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham FC), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)

FORWARDS (3): Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Mario Rodriguez (Borussia Monchengladbach), Khiry Shelton (New York City FC)

KEY NOTES ON THE FORMAT:

USA-COLOMBIA MATCHUP: Since the U.S. U-23 MNT plays as a collective every four years, the age group has yet to face Colombia in international competition. That said, there are several players on each team that met last summer at the 2015 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand. The U.S. U-20 MNT defeated Colombia’s U-20 MNT 1-0 in the Round of 16 in Wellington. Five players from each of the teams are also on the U-23 rosters for this Olympic Qualifying Playoff.  

WORLD CUP TIES: Both team also count on one player who not only played, but also scored at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. USA winger Julian Green tallied for the USA in his only appearance in the 2-1 overtime loss to Belgium in the Round of 16. Colombia’s Juan Fernando Quintero scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 group win against Ivory Coast. He also started the third match of group play against Japan before being replaced by James Rodriguez in the second half.

MAN IN THE MIDDLE: The officiating crew for the match all hail from Turkey. Among the high-profile matches that referee Cüneyt Çakır has called are the 2015 UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus and FC Barcelona and the 2014 FIFA World Cup semifinal between Argentina and the Netherlands. The assistant referees are Orkun Aktas and Mehmet Sem Satman and the fourth official is Hüseyin Göçek.

COLOMBIA’S ROSTER:
GOALKEEPERS: Alvaro Montero (San Lorenzo, ARG), Cristian Bonilla (Atletico Nacional), Luis Hurtado (Deportivo Cali)

DEFENDERS: Jherson Vergara (Livorno, ITA), Cristian Borja (Santa Fe), Jaine Barreiro (Santa Fe), Luis Orejuela (Deportivo Cal), Felipe Aguilar (Atletico Nacional), Davinson Sanchez (Atletico Nacional), Yerry Mina (Santa Fe), Deiver Machado (Millonarios), Helibelton Palacios (Deportivo Cali)

MIDFIELDERS: Juan Pablo Nieto (Atletico Nacional), Andres Felipe Roa (Deportivo Cali), Juan Fernando Quintero (Rennes, France), Yony Gonzalez (Junior), Jose Leudo (Deportivo Pasto), Wilmar Barrios (Deportes Tolima), Jarlan Barrera (Junior)

FORWARDS: Andres Renteria (Santos Laguna, MEX), Roger Martinez (Racing Club, Argentina), Rafael Santos Borre (Deportivo Cal), Cristian Dajome (Deportes Tolima), Harold Preciado (Deportivo Cali),

Head coach: Carlos Restrepo