U.S. Olympic team heavy on MLS players and light on veterans due to Copa conflict

United States defender Miles Robinsonis held by Canada forward Junior Hoilett as he attempts to run toward the goal

The U.S. will return to the men’s Olympic soccer tournament later this month with a roster featuring eight players off European clubs and 10 from MLS, making it the most international Olympic roster in U.S. history.

The U.S. will open against host France in Marseille on July 24, two days before the opening ceremonies. The U.S. will also face New Zealand and Guinea in group play, needing to finish in the top two to advance to the quarterfinals for just the second time since 1956.

Because the Olympics are an age-group tournament in men’s soccer, the 18-man roster was limited to players born on or after Jan. 1, 2001, with three overage exceptions. In addition, club teams are not required to release players to compete in age-group events, so players including Joe Scally, Gio Reyna, Johnny Cardoso, Yunus Musah, Malik Tillman, Ricardo Pepi and Folarin Balogun, who were all on the U.S. team that bowed out of the Copa América last week, were not available for selection.

“It was actually a really difficult process in the last eight to 10 months, talking to the clubs and trying to get players released,” U.S. coach Marko Mitrovic said. “That was a challenge. But we ended up with a roster that we really believe can represent us in the best possible way. I feel very good about the team.”

Read more: Alex Morgan left off USWNT’s Olympic roster, likely ending international run

FC Cincinnati defender Miles Robinson, who was also on the Copa América team, was named to the Olympic team as one of three overage players, alongside Nashville center back Walker Zimmerman and Colorado midfielder Djordje Mihailovic.

“First time for me going to the Olympics,” said Zimmerman, who played on the U.S. team that failed to qualify for the 2016 Games. “I thought my dream was over, I won’t have a chance to play in the Olympics.

“Just getting this opportunity is amazing. It’s something I always watched growing up, something I always wanted to participate in. Can’t wait to get to France.”

Despite the international flavor of the roster, MLS played a major role in developing the team since 17 of the 18 players selected have played in the league or spent time in an MLS academy.

Read more: Commentary: Gregg Berhalter and U.S. Soccer are in trouble after embarrassing Copa América loss

The roster (with club and hometown):


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