U.S. under-23 men
Charles picks Olympic pool of 25, must still reduce his squad to 18 players.By Gary Davidson
(Wednesday, March 22, 2000) -- United States menís Olympic coach Clive Charles is succinct when he talks about his goals for his under-23 national team.
"My job is to get out of the (qualifying) group, get to (the Summer Games in) Australia and win a medal," he said.
With the great majority of players coming from Major League Soccer, Charles announced a 25-player pool which Charles must winnow to 18, plus three alternates, for the CONCACAF qualifying tournament (for nations from North America, Central America and the Caribbean) which begins April 21.
As host, the U.S. automatically qualified for the final round of six of which tow advance to the Olympics.
The final cut will be made April 7, prior to the U.S. holding a week-long training camp in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. April 10-17.
Nineteen of the 25 players are under contract to MLS, led by D.C. Unitedís Ben Olsen, a midfielder who has 14 appearances and three goals with the senior national team. D.C. United, the Chicago Fire and Los Angeles Galaxy each have three players on the roster.
Four of the players are based overseas: defender Steve Cherundolo of Germany's Hanover 96; midfielder John O'Brien of Dutch power Ajax; plus midfielder John Thorrington and forward Landon Donovan, both of Germany's Bayer Leverkusen.
"Having professional players is a tremendous advantage, and some of these players have been in a professional environment for a couple of years," Charles said. "It's a huge plus."
This year's qualifying will mark the first time the U.S. under-23 men have entered a competition of the magnitude of the Olympics with a roster made predominantly of professional players. Previously college players and recent graduates Ė along with three overage exemptions in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics -- have been used.
"Having professional players is a tremendous advantage, and some of these players have been in a professional environment for a couple of years," said Charles, who led he U-23s to third place in the 1999 Pan American Games and a 7-4-6 record in his tenure. "It's a huge plus.
"This is a very strong squad that I have to choose from heading into camp in April. In these days of MLS and players competing abroad, we're able to pull together an experienced bunch of professionals to form the best young team that this country has to offer."
Nations must use their under-23 players exclusively to qualify for the 16-team Olympics in Sydney, Australia, in September. In Australia, three exceptions for players over the U-23 limit are allowed.
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