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USMNT prospects blog: MLS players key to U.S. Olympic qualifying

Red Bulls center back Matt Miazga, left, could start for the U.S. in its upcoming Olympic qualifying matches.
Red Bulls center back Matt Miazga, left, could start for the U.S. in its upcoming Olympic qualifying matches.

With MLS entering the business end of the regular season before the playoffs begin this fall, the squad that U.S. under-23 coach Andi Herzog names for next week's final pre-Olympic qualifying tournament tuneup in England against the hosts figures to be mostly European-based.

But because the beginning of the actual qualifying tourney itself -- scheduled for Oct. 1-13 in four American cities -- falls outside of FIFA's international fixture window, and because CONCACAF confirmed Wednesday to ESPN that it will limit rosters for the competition to just 17 outfield players and three goalkeepers, there's a good chance Herzog will be without Euro-based blue-chippers like Cody Cropper, Emerson Hyndman, Desevio Payne and Rubio Rubin (not to mention established senior teamers like John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin) with a spot in Rio on the line. That's because even if the team opts to start the tournament a few players short, Herzog and every other country's coach will be at the mercy of club teams that are under no obligation to release their brightest young prospects.

"Hopefully we get the support from all the clubs to get the players in," senior team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, speaking to U.S. Soccer's website earlier this week, said of the U23 conundrum. "We badly need those players to qualify for Rio de Janeiro."

Klinsmann wasn't talking only about European clubs, however. MLS teams will also be asked to cooperate. And if history is any indication, coaches in the domestic league will be far more willing to accommodate U.S. Soccer than their foreign counterparts. That means it's likely that for the most part, MLS players will be the ones who determine whether the U.S. will reach the Summer Games for the first time since 2008. In recent weeks, ESPN spoke to five roster candidates who could feature when qualifying kicks off in less than six weeks.

Bradford Jamieson IV | Pos: Forward | Team: LA Galaxy

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