One of Concacaf’s two men’s soccer berths at the 2024 Summer Olympics is on the line Friday night when the United States U-20 national team faces Honduras in a Concacaf U-20 Championship semifinal.
The winner books a ticket to Paris two years from now, while the loser will settle for only earning one of the region’s four spots in the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia. The Dominican Republic and Guatemala have also qualified there.
There’s plenty on the line for the United States, who haven’t reached the Olympics since Beijing 2008 and are aiming to win their third-straight Concacaf U-20 Championship.
Here’s what to know as an MLS-heavy squad (17 of 20 players) faces the regional tournament’s host nation during a high-stakes occasion.
How to watch and stream
- FS1, TUDN
- Friday | July 1, 9 pm ET
- Estadio Morazán; San Pedro Sula, Honduras
The US are into a fifth-straight FIFA U-20 World Cup after beating Costa Rica, 2-0, in the quarterfinals behind a brace from Philadelphia Union homegrown attacker Paxten Aaronson. That followed their Group E-topping efforts and a commanding Round of 16 victory over Nicaragua.
But now the pressure ratchets up for head coach Mikey Varas’ team, which carries the pressure of past failed Olympic qualification efforts. The US missed out on the quadrennial games’ 2012, 2016 and 2020 editions as the U-23s underperformed – losing to Honduras, coincidentally, in the semifinals of the latter two Concacaf qualification tournaments.
To avoid history repeating itself, the US must fare without San Jose Earthquakes homegrown forward Cade Cowell after Concacaf issued him a three-game suspension for his role in a post-semifinal dust-up vs. Costa Rica. But there’s still plenty of attacking firepower, with Philly’s Aaronson and Quinn Sullivan combining for nine goals. The Yanks’ creative hubs have been Real Salt Lake midfielder Diego Luna and New York Red Bulls midfielder Caden Clark (four assists each).
Will it all be enough to book an Olympics ticket, after Concacaf instituted a dual-qualification pathway for this U-20 tournament?
Honduras have been somewhat of a boogeyman for the US when Olympic berths are on the line, beating them in Concacaf qualification semifinals for the 2016 and 2020 tournaments. Those were at the U-23 level and sparked hard-pressing questions about why the US couldn’t solve Los Catrachos.
Again, Honduras won’t be an easy test for the US. They rolled through Group H with three straight wins, then beat Curacao in the Round of 16 before a brace from forward Marco Aceituno sent them past Panama, 2-1, in the quarterfinals. Aceituno leads the tournament with six goals.
A sold-out crowd is expected at Estadio Morazán in San Pedro Sula, giving Honduras a true home-field advantage. That could be a key edge for a country that’s qualified for five of the last six Men’s Olympic Football Tournaments and finished fourth at Rio 2016.