Opening ceremonies for the 2016 Rio Olympics may be less than a year away, but for the U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team the games start tonight against Canada in the opening game of the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.
Tasked with the job of leading the U-23 MNT to its first Olympic Games since 2008, is head coach and former LA Galaxy midfielder, Andi Herzog, who has assembled a talented a roster of 20 players.
Included in the roster are California natives, Luis Gil, who has captained the U-23 team four times in 2015, and Marc Pelosi.
Gil will be one of the most important players for the U-23 MNT during its Olympic Qualifying run. A strong showing will serve as a springboard to future international call-ups at the senior level. Gil has played in five matches this year with the U-23 MNT and he leads the squad in assists with four.
Pelosi joined San Jose Earthquakes midway through the 2015 season and has fit in quite well, appearing in 11 games for the MLS team since July. He also saw significant minutes with the U-23 MNT at the 2015 Toulon Tournament where they finished in third place.
Other players with California connections to pay attention to are forward Jordan Morris (Stanford) and midfielder Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes). Morris has already scored at the senior level in a friendly against Mexico in April. The hype train will be at full speed if Morris can deliver with the U-23 MNT. Alashe has enjoyed a strong rookie season at San Jose. He can provide depth at midfield and has shown he can play center back. He has appeared in four matches this year with the U-23 MNT squad and scored a goal against Costa Rica at the Toulon Tournament.
If you are a fan of the Xolos, you want to pay attention to Mexico as goalkeeper Gibran Lajud may see some significant playing time after featuring in a handful of games for Mexico in 2015.
Full group schedule for the U-23 MNT (all times PT)
October 1 vs Canada at Sporing Park – 6:00 p.m. on NBC Universo
October 3 vs Cuba at Sporting Park – 2:00 p.m. on Telemundo
October 6 vs Panama at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – 6:30 p.m. on NBC Universo