Five Things to Know About Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying

One year after it was originally scheduled, the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship will kick off on Thursday, March 18 when the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team takes on Costa Rica (4:30 p.m. ET; FS1, TUDN).

One year after it was originally scheduled, the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship will kick off Thursday, March 18 when the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team takes on Costa Rica (4:30 p.m. ET; FS1, TUDN).


Two teams from the tournament will punch their tickets to the Olympics as the USA aims to qualify for its first Men’s Olympic Football Tournament since 2008. Here are five things to know about the red, white, and blue’s road to Tokyo.



Held quadrennially, the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship serves as the region’s qualification for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament and championship for under-23 players. Since 1992, the Olympics have been contested as an under-23 competition to differentiate the tournament from the FIFA World Cup.


Originally slated for March 2020, the Concacaf qualifying tournament is open to all players born in 1997 or later. The age-eligibility rules have carried over from the postponement, so some players on the U-23 USMNT are actually 24 years old. 


Eight teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean make up the tournament field. Canada, Mexico and the USA qualified automatically from North America, while Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras, as well as Dominican Republic and Haiti emerged from sub-regional qualifying tournaments. 


The eight nations were drawn into two groups of four teams and the USA will face Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Mexico in Group A play. The top two teams from each group advance to the pivotal semifinals, whose winners will qualify to the Olympics in Tokyo as well as the tournament final.


Group A

Group B





Costa Rica

El Salvador

Dominican Republic



From a potential-packed pool of prospects, U-23 USMNT head coach Jason Kreis has called in a versatile 20-man roster for Olympic qualifying. Eleven players have been capped with the senior USMNT and 10 have previously won Concacaf championships at the U-20 level. 



Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes, Alamo, Calif.), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; Oxnard, Calif.)

DEFENDERS (6): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; Lompoc, Calif.), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake; Las Cruces, N.M.), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; New York, N.Y.), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire FC; Bolingbrook, Ill.), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; Colorado Springs, Colo.)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; Denville, N.J.), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United FC; Federal Way, Wash.), Ulysses Llanez (Heerenveen/NED; Lynwood, Calif.), Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montreal/CAN; Lemont, Ill.), Andrés Perea (Orlando City SC; Medellín, Colombia), Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM Pumas/MEX; Park City, Utah), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; Bloomington, Minn.)

 Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; McKinney, Texas), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; Plantation, Fla.), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.), Sebastian Soto (Norwich City/ENG; San Diego, Calif.)


The squad is loaded with experience in the professional ranks as well as in important international youth tournaments. Ten players helped the USA win its first Concacaf U-20 Championships back-to-back in 2017 and 2018, while 10 have been part of a final roster at a FIFA Youth World Cup.


Midfielder Djordje Mihailovic has captained the squad in its last three international matches while goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski has appeared in every training camp for the U-23s since the start of the cycle in March 2019. Midfielder Jackson Yueill has already made nine appearances for the senior USMNT, while forwards Jonathan Lewis and Jesus Ferreira both bagged their first full international goals with braces against Trinidad and Tobago in January.




After the U-23 cycle kicked off in March 2019, Kreis held U-23 training camps in every international window during the course of the year, building momentum and familiarity within the team. Following a productive year, several U-23-eligible players participated in the USMNT’s 2020 January training camp ahead of Olympic qualifying.


Less than a week after the team arrived in Guadalajara, Mexico to prepare for the tournament, the sporting world shut down and Concacaf announced that the competition would be suspended indefinitely. In a year of uncertainty, almost every member of the U-23 roster made significant strides with their clubs, gaining valuable professional experience.


Some players took the next step to become regular starters with their clubs, like Marcinkowski locking down San Jose’s starting goalkeeper spot down the stretch. Others, like defenders Henry Kessler and Mauricio Pineda, burst onto the scene with strong rookie seasons in Major League Soccer.


USMNT programming finally resumed towards the end of the year as the senior team held training camps in November and December. In January, the U-23 and full USMNT trained together in Florida before 16 U-23 players were called up to the senior squad for its match against Trinidad and Tobago. In total, all but two players have been involved with the USMNT since it resumed play in November.


The USA has qualified for the most Olympic Games of any nation in Concacaf with 14 appearances and have played in four of seven Olympics since the under-23 rule was put in place in 1992.


The last successful Olympic qualifying run for the U-23 USMNT came in 2008. Nineteen-year-old Freddy Adu bagged a brace and Sacha Kljestan added an exclamation point in the USA’s 3-0 victory against Canada to clinch the team’s berth in Beijing.


Last time out, the USA came achingly close to qualifying for Rio 2016, finishing third at 2015 Concacaf qualifying to advance to a Concacaf-CONMEBOL playoff for the final slot in the Olympic tournament. After drawing 1-1 with Colombia on the road, the U.S. fell 2-1 at home to come up just short in its qualification bid.


The USA kicks off Olympic qualifying vs. Costa Rica on Thursday, March 18, takes on the Dominican Republic on Sunday, March 21, and wraps up group play vs. Mexico on Wednesday, March 24. All of the U-23 USMNT’s matches will be broadcast on FS1 and TUDN. Fans can follow the action from Guadalajara on U.S. Soccer’s official Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.




Kickoff (ET)



March 18

USA vs. Costa Rica

5:30 p.m.


Estadio Jalisco; Guadalajara, Mexico

March 21

USA vs. Dominican Republic

7 p.m.


Estadio Akron; Zapopan, Mexico

March 24

USA vs. Mexico

9:30 p.m.


Estadio Jalisco; Guadalajara, Mexico