Nashville SC will boast a pair of players competing for their countries in the Concacaf Olympic Qualiying tournament. The U-23 tournament sees winger Randall Leal called up by Costa Rica, and midfielder Derrick Jones by the United States.
The rosters are not finalized – they will be trimmed to 20 players before the tournament begins March 20 in Guadalajara, Mexico – but both players stand a strong chance to participate, if released by Nashville SC. Since it is a youth tournament, NSC is not compelled by FIFA rule to release players (unlike for a senior tournament).
Leal has been a full international for Los Ticos, most recently playing for his nation against the United States at the beginning of February. Jones has represented the United States at the U-20 and U-23 levels, participating in the U-20 World Cup in 2017.
The qualifying tournament does not include over-age players, whereas the Olympics themselves allow each nation to bring three players who do not meet U-23 criteria. Notable over-agers in the past have included such names as Brazilian global superstar Neymar Jr., so some countries take the Olympics extremely seriously.
The United State has not qualified for the Olympics since 2008, missing out on the 2012 and 2016 tournaments. To break that ignominious streak, they’ll have to take first or second place in a qualifying group that includes Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic (no guarantee!), and win a semifinal match against a team emerging from Group B, which includes Honduras, Canada, El Salvador, and Haiti.
With Leal and Jones possibly facing each other in the tournament’s opening game March 20, there could be exciting #BoysinNotGold updates to come.
Jones (center) and Leal (center-right) photo by Abraham Zapruder/For Club and Country.