USA U-23 team, Colombia in two-leg playoff for Olympic berth
The United States under-23 national team will face Colombia in a two-legged playoff next March to determine a berth at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Colombia will host the first leg of the home-and-home series, while the Americans will stage the second leg at a site to be determined later, according to a release from U.S. Soccer. The exact dates for the two matches are still uncertain at this point, but the games must be played by the end of March, according to FIFA regulations.
This playoff offers the Americans a chance to snatch an Olympic spot at the last possible instance after failing to seal one of the two available berths during the 2015 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.
Andreas Herzog’s side romped through Group A to reach the semifinals, but the Americans lost the critical semifinal to Honduras and squandered a chance to qualify directly in the process. The subsequent victory over Canada in the third-place match arranged this playoff against Colombia, the second-place finishers in the 2015 South American Youth Football Championship held in Uruguay earlier this year.
Colombia leaned on Juventus starlet Andrés Tello (currently on loan to Cagliari) and a host of domestic-based prospects to finish second in the under-20 tournament used to determine the Olympic and FIFA Under-20 World Cup berths earlier this year. Colombia under-23 coach Carlos Restrepo is expected to gather a more experienced squad for matches against China, South Korea and Morocco in China next month.
If the Americans can overcome Colombia next year, then they will return to the Olympics for the first time since 2008 and take their place in the 16-team field next summer.