The sobering reality is starting to sink in that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics aren’t going to happen, a development that seemed inevitable even before Monday’s reports confirming the postponement of the Olympics. That doesn’t make it sting any less for U.S. Men’s National Team fans that had high hopes for the possibilities for the USMNT in Tokyo.
Of course, the Americans still needed to quality, which isn’t a given for a program that has failed to do so for three of the past four Olympics, but the unprecedented wave of talent passing through the USMNT talent pool made qualifying much less of a concern heading into the qualifying tournament, which was supposed to have begun last Friday.
As nations like Canada and Australia line up to signal their intent to skip the Olympics if they are not postponed, the Olympics now appear set to be pushed to 2021, if they are played at all. How the Olympic Committee will handle age rules for the tournament — making it a U-24 instead of U-23 in order to avoid excluding players who would have been eligible this year — remains to be seen, but you have to wonder how much of an appetite there will be for the Olympic soccer tournament given the overwhelming task world soccer will have trying to reshuffle the global calendar in the wake of the postponements of events like the 2020 Euros, Copa America and World Cup qualifying.
European clubs were already unlikely to release top players for the 2020 Olympics, and that reluctance is sure to only grow a year from now, meaning there’s a likelihood that a 2021 Olympic tournament will be a shell of the competition it could have been if the Coronavirus hadn’t come along to cripple the world.
The postponement of the Olympics won’t stop American fans from thinking about what could have been, and they have a reason to wonder because the current Under-23 talent pool is the strongest and deepest the USMNT program has ever.
What could have a USMNT Olympic team looked like? Here is the starting lineup, and squad that could have been put together (ignoring for a moment the reality that several clubs would have said no to letting their players play in the Olympics):
Zack Steffen, John Brooks and Jordan Morris are the three overage players in this projection. To be clear, it’s unlikely that Pulisic, Brooks or even Miles Robinson would have been allowed to play in the Olympics, but this lineup would have made a good case for being the best possible squad.
What kind of USMNT Olympic team could have been put together without any overage players? Here is one projection:
This lineup is a good glimpse into the future for the USMNT.
A USMNT Olympic team with as strong a squad as possible could have made some noise at the Olympics, and potentially captured a medal. Of course at this point it’s unlikely we will ever know what the above group could have done.
USMNT fan can take heart in the fact that whenever the Olympics do take place, the United States will have the talent to field a strong team that not only should qualify comfortably, but can put together a squad capable of making a run.
What do you think of the USMNT Olympic Dream Team? Who was left off the squad that you think should have been included? Which overage players would you choose?
Share your thoughts below.