Preview: U.S. Olympic Men’s Soccer Continues Paris 2024 Prep Against Japan In Phoenix

Phoenix Rising Stadium; Phoenix, Ariz.; Tuesday, Oct. 17 – 10:30 p.m. ET; ussoccer.com, U.S. Soccer App and YouTube

U.S. Olympic Men’s Soccer Team vs. Japan
International Friendly
Phoenix Rising Stadium; Phoenix, Ariz.
Tuesday, Oct. 17 – 10:30 p.m. ET
ussoccer.com, U.S. Soccer App and YouTube

KICKING OFF THE ROAD TO PARIS

After qualifying for its first Men’s Olympic Soccer Tournament since 2008, the USA is kicking off its preparation for Paris 2024 with two friendlies this month in Phoenix. The U.S. Olympic Men’s Soccer Team defeated Mexico 2-1 on Wednesday night to start its first training camp of the cycle and will now face Japan on Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 10:30 p.m. ET (ussoccer.com, U.S. Soccer App and YouTube). The Samurai Blue finished fourth as host at the delayed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and topped Mexico 4-1 on Saturday in Phoenix.

Fans can follow all of the action from Arizona on ussoccer.com as well as U.S. Soccer Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

U.S. OLYMPIC MEN’S SOCCER TEAM – OCTOBER TRAINING CAMP (CLUB; HOMETOWN)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Christopher Brady (Chicago Fire FC; Naperville, Ill.), John Pulskamp (Sporting KC; Bakersfield, Calif.), Patrick Schulte (Columbus Crew; St. Charles, Mo.)

DEFENDERS (7): Brandan Craig (Austin FC; Philadelphia, Pa.), Maximilian Dietz (SpVgg Greuther Furth/GER; Frankfurt, Germany), Nathan Harriel (Philadelphia Union; Oldsmar, Fla.), Bryan Reynolds (Westerlo/BEL; Fort Worth, Texas), John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; Chatham, N.J.), Jonathan Tomkinson (Bradford City/ENG; Plano, Texas), Caleb Wiley (Atlanta United FC; Atlanta, Ga.)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Paxten Aaronson (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER; Medford, N.J.), Gianluca Busio (Venezia/ITA; Greensboro, N.C.), Benjamin Cremaschi (Inter Miami CF; Key Biscayne, Fla.), Jack McGlynn (Philadelphia Union; Queens, N.Y.), Aidan Morris (Columbus Crew; Ft Lauderdale, Fla.), Tanner Tessmann (Venezia/ITA; Birmingham, Ala.), Obed Vargas (Seattle Sounders FC; Anchorage, Alaska)

FORWARDS (7): Esmir Bajraktarevic (New England Revolution; Appleton, Wisc.), Taylor Booth (Utrecht/NED; Eden, Utah), Johan Gomez (Eintracht Braunschweig/GER; Keller, Texas), Brian Gutierrez (Chicago Fire FC; Chicago, Ill.), Bernard Kamungo (FC Dallas; Abilene, Texas), Duncan McGuire (Orlando City SC; Omaha, Neb.), Indiana Vassilev (St. Louis City SC; Savannah, Ga.)

U.S. MEN’S SOCCER AT THE OLYMPICS

Next summer marks the U.S. men’s return to the Olympics for the first time in 16 years. The Men’s Olympic Soccer Tournament has served as an important platform for the USMNT program over the years since it became an under-23 tournament in 1992 (with a three overage player allowance).

Future senior team stalwarts like Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley represented the U.S. at Beijing 2008, while legends like Landon Donovan and John O’Brien helped the red, white and blue on its medal round run at Sydney 2000. Frankie Hejduk and Kasey Keller played for the U.S. on home soil at Atlanta 1996 while goalkeeper Brad Friedel backstopped the USA at Barcelona 1992, playing behind future stars like Cobi Jones, Alexi Lalas and Claudio Reyna.

Since 1992, it’s been an under-23 tournament with three overage players allowed. The U.S. Olympic Men’s Soccer Team finished fourth at Sydney 2000 for its best finish in modern USMNT history, falling to Chile in the Bronze Medal Match. 

STRONG START VS. MEXICO

The U.S. started its Olympic prep with an exciting 2-1 win against archrival Mexico on Oct. 11 in Phoenix. Two of the squad’s youngest players, forward Esmir Bajraktarevic and midfielder Obed Vargas, netted at the end of each half to propel the U.S. to a cycle-opening win.

The USA dominated the first half, with a number of dangerous attacking runs as Booth earned a penalty kick in the sixth minute after a dangerous run but had his shot stopped by Mexico goalkeeper Fernando Tapia. The U.S. also threatened on set pieces throughout the half, but Bajraktarevic broke the deadlock in first-half stoppage time, finishing a pass from midfielder Gianluca Busio by beating a man and ripping a shot from outside the 18.

In the second half, head coach Marko Mitrović made nine changes to evaluate as many players as possible. The fresh legs had to weather some renewed pressure from Mexico, fending off a number of El Tri forays, highlighted by a diving save from goalkeeper Patrick Schulte in the 59th.

Vargas put an exclamation point on things in the 90th minute, as forward Bernard Kamungo dished to the 18-year-old midfielder, who one-timed a shot to the right side. Mexico got on the board late with a rocket from Jesús Brigido in the final moments.

Japan downed Mexico 4-1 on Saturday, Oct. 14 in the Samurai Blue’s first match of the October interational window.

USA ROSTER NOTES:

  • Twenty-one of 22 players who appeared for the U.S. on Wednesday night made their debut at the Under-23 age level. Midfielder Tanner Tessmann played three games for the U.S. at the 2021 Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.
  • The two goal scorers, Bajraktarevic and Vargas, are two of three 18-year-olds on the roster. Those two, alongside midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi, are also age-eligible for the 2025 FIFA U-20 World Cup and 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
  • Forwards Bernard Kamungo and Duncan McGuire made their first U.S. international appearance at any level.
  • The roster features nine players who have appeared for the full U.S. Men’s National Team, led by midfielder Gianluca Busio’s 13 senior international caps.
  • Nine players have represented the USA in a FIFA Youth World Cup, including four players from this summer’s 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina: defenders Brandan Craig and Caleb Wiley plus midfielders Jack McGlynn and Vargas. During that event, the USA became the only nation to reach the tournament quarterfinals in four straight editions. 
  • The roster features 10 players born in 2001, five born in 2002, three born in 2003, three born in 2004 and three born in 2005.
  • The roster features players from 20 clubs, including 13 from Major League Soccer, led by two players each from Chicago Fire FC, Columbus Crew and Philadelphia Union.
  • Eight players are based abroad in Germany (three), Italy (two), Belgium, England and the Netherlands (one each).
  • A total of 16 states are represented on the roster, with four players hailing from Texas. A native of Anchorage, Vargas is a rare National Team roster selection from Alaska.

HOW WE GOT HERE

The U.S. qualified for the 2024 Olympics with a dominant performance at the 2022 Concacaf U-20 Championship in Honduras, defeating the host nation 3-0 in the tournament semifinals before a raucous crowd to secure its Olympic berth. Paxten Aaronson netted the game’s opening goal and took home the Golden Ball as the competition’s best player and Golden Boot as top scorer.

U-23 HISTORY VS. JAPAN

The U.S. and Japan faced off during the last U-23 MYNT cycle in Sept. 2019, a 2-0 victory for the USA in Chula Vista, Calif. The nations also met at the USA’s last Olympic appearance in 2008, a 1-0 victory for the red, white and blue in Tianjin, China. Stu Holden scored the lone goal for the U.S. The teams also drew 2-2 in the quarterfinals of Sydney 2000, with Josh Wolff scoring the USA’s opening goal as the U.S. ultimately prevailed 5-4 on PKs.

JAPAN ROSTER:

GOALKEEPERS (3): 12-Taishi Brandon Nozawa (FC Tokyo), 23-Ryoya Kimura (Nihon University), 1-Masato Sasaki (Kashiwa Reysol)

DEFENDERS (8): 17-Kashif Bangnagande (FC Tokyo), 22-Annie Chase (Stuttgart/GER), 15-Taiga Hata (Shonan Bellmare), 5-Seiji Kimura (FC Tokyo), 3-Ryuya Nishio (Cerezo Osaka), 21-Ayumu Ohata (Urawa Red Diamonds), 4-Kaito Suzuki (Jubilo Iwata), 2-Takashi Uchino (Fortuna Düsseldorf/GER)

MIDFIELDERS (9): 18-Yuta Arai (Toyo University), 8-Joel Fuijita (Sint-Truiden/BEL), 6-Taichi Fukui (Bayern Munich/GER), 19-Tomoki Kondo (Yokohama FC), 16-Kuryu Matsuki (FC Tokyo), 10-Yuito Suzuki (Brøndby/DEN), 13-Satoshi Tanaka (Shonan Bellmare), 20-Fuki Yamada (Kyoto Sanga), 7-Rihito Yamamoto (Sint-Truiden/BEL)

FORWARDS (2): 11-Mao Hosoya (Kashiwa Reysol), 9-Kotaro Uchino (University of Tsukuba)

JAPAN’S ROAD TO PARIS

Japan will compete for one of three Asian Football Confederation berths to the Olympics at the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup from April 15-May 3 in Qatar. The Samurai Blue earned its spot for the tournament as winner of qualifying Group D, topping Pakistan and Palestine while drawing Bahrain, 0-0.

The Asian power matched its best-ever Olympic finish at the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics, falling to Mexico in the Third-Place Match. Japan also reached the bronze medal match at London 2012, losing to Korea Republic. In total, the Samurai Blue has qualified for 11 of 27 Men’s Olympic Soccer Tournaments and seven of eight since the U-23 age restriction was introduced in 1992.

Go Deeper