Men’s Olympic soccer qualifying for North and Central America and the Caribbean will take place during a FIFA international match window from March 20 to April 1, a decision that means the United States may be able to use top young players with European clubs such as Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Tyler Adams.
CONCACAF, the regional governing body, said Wednesday the eight-nation qualifying tournament will be played at Guadalajara, Mexico, in the Jalisco and Akron stadiums.
While FIFA requires clubs to release players to senior national teams during international windows, soccer’s rules leave the decision to clubs on whether to release players to youth national teams. Olympic men’s soccer qualifying is limited to players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997.
The United States failed to qualify for the 2012 and 2016 Olympic men’s soccer tournaments, a stumble by youth teams that preceded the senior national team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
The US, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico have assured places in the qualifying tournament and will be joined by a pair of Caribbean nations to be determined next month. The two semifinal winners qualify for the 16-nation men’s tournament in Japan, to be played from July 23 to August 8. At the Olympics, each men’s national teams can include up to three players over the age limit on its 20-man roster.
CONCACAF men’s qualifying was in Guadalajara ahead of the 2004 Olympics and in the US for the last three Olympics. The Americans failed to advance from the group stage of 2012 qualifying, beating Cuba 6-0 but losing to Canada 2-0 and tying El Salvador 3-3. The US lost to Honduras 2-0 in the semifinals of 2016 qualifying.