Although the Olympics are still over a year away, preparation and qualification for the tournament will be heating up this week. On Sunday, US Soccer announced their 18-man roster for their under-23 squad that will take on Bosnia and Herzegovina on Saturday.
The USMNT U-23’s that will take on Bosnia in Tuzla will feature a mixture of professional and amateurs players as we as players who feature for both European and North American clubs. Of the eighteen players called up by USMNT U-23 coach Andi Herzog, 7 of them currently feature for MLS squads: defenders Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids), Oscar Sorto(Los Angeles Galaxy), and Christian Dean(Vancouver Whitecaps), midfielders Fatai Alashe(San Jose Earthquakes), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), and Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC), and forward Khiry Shelton (NYCFC).
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Aside from the MLS-based players and Jordan Morris (who has already featured for the senior national team while playing at Stanford) perhaps the most interesting name from the domestic players is Alfred Shams. Shams, 20, played college soccer at both the University of Akron and Southern Methodist University and played for the USYNT U-17 team at the 2011 U-17 World Cup.
From the players plying their trade in Europe and in Mexico, Will Packwood (Birmingham City) is perhaps the most well-known of the group. Packwood seems like he should be older than he is, given that his name has always popped up in those “Americans Abroad” articles. But he really has never featured for Birmingham, partially due to suffering a significant amount of injuries.
That being said, he has been a regular for Cheltenham Town since going on loan and just scored his first-ever goal at senior level last week.
The other player to keep an eye on is Jerome Kiesewetter of Stuttgart. Kiesewetter made his first-ever appearance in the Bundesliga earlier this month for Stuttgart against Hertha Berlin. He has also featured for the USMNT at the youth levels as well.
One thing to bear in mind is that like with the senior and U-20 rosters, US Soccer has opted to limit the number of MLS-based players for these series of friendlies. Given that the season is just starting and that MLS regular season matches will go on as planned it does make sense to give those players time to prepare for the club season.
The USMNT U-23 will be using this match as preparation for qualification for the 2016 Olympics. CONCACAF will begin qualification on October the 1st. Over eight teams will vie for CONCACAF’s two automatic spots with third-place going on to face Colombia in a playoff.
Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot qualify for the 2016 Olympics, having already been eliminated during the preliminary rounds of the 2015 UEFA European Under-21 Championship. Instead they will likely use this friendly as an assessment for their squad depth in preparation for the senior team’s upcoming 2016 European Championship qualification matches
GOALKEEPERS: Charlie Horton (Cardiff City), Tyler Miller (Zweibrücken)
DEFENDERS : Christian Dean (Vancouver Whitecaps), Juan Pablo Ocegueda (Alebrijes de Oaxaca), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids), William Packwood (Birmingham City), Oscar Sorto (LA Galaxy)
MIDFIELDERS: Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Benji Joya (unattached), Ariel Lassiter (LA Galaxy II), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
FORWARDS: Alonso Hernandez (Monterrey), Jerome Kiesewetter (Stuttgart), Alfred Koroma Shams (Austin Aztex), Jordan Morris (Stanford), Mario Rodriguez (Borussia Mönchengladbach),Khiry Shelton (New York City FC)