Photo by Rick Yeatts/ISIphotos.com
What started with the appointment of a new coach and an evaluation a deep U.S. Under-23 player pool five months ago is set to culminate in meaningful games on the field starting tonight.
The favored U.S. U-23 national team kicks off its quest for the London Olympics at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., taking on Cuba (9 p.m., Universal Sports Network/mun2/CONCACAF.com, USN streams) in the first of three group matches in a five-day span.
Following monthly training camps and a number of friendlies, the U-23s will be looking to do what the heralded U.S. U-20 squad could not do ahead of last year's World Cup: Meet lofty expectations and qualify for a major international tournament. Four players on the U-23s — Perry Kitchen, Amobi Okugo, Joe Gyau and Zarek Valentin — were on that U-20 side, but they each bring another year of professional seasoning and experience to the table and join a U.S. youth side that is perhaps more professionally advanced than any of its predecessors.
More notes about the U.S. team and video from last night's training session in Nashville are after the jump:
Forward Terrence Boyd was the final arrival into U.S. camp, joining his U-23 teammates on Wednesday as had been the plan when the U.S. roster was announced.
He arrives in good form, after playing in a match for the Borussia Dortmund reserve team against Wuppertal on Tuesday in which he scored his 14th goal of the season.
JERSEY NUMBERS OUT
Jersey numbers have taken on more meaning for U.S. Soccer during the Jurgen Klinsmann era, and while it might be reading into things a bit too much in terms of trying to project out who coach Caleb Porter will choose to start tonight against Cuba, it is worth noting that for last month's friendly against Mexico the players wearing 1-through-11 on that night all started.
Here's the U.S. Olympic qualifying roster by number:
The United States will wear its white kit throughout the group stage, according to U.S. Soccer.
Excited that qualifying has finally arrived? Are you expecting the United States to roll through to the semifinals, or do you think the group stage will prove to be difficult? Who do you hope to see get the start against Cuba?
Share your thoughts below.