The United States men’s Olympic team won’t have an easy road to qualify for its first Olympic Games since 2008.
The American team, ranked No. 22 in the world at the senior level, was drawn Thursday into a tough group for 2020 Olympic qualifiers with the other two top teams in the Concacaf region: Mexico (No. 11) and Costa Rica (No. 46). Rounding out Group A is the Dominican Republic (No. 158).
Meanwhile, Group B consists of Honduras (No. 62), El Salvador (No. 69), Canada (No. 73) and Haiti (No. 86).
Only two teams from Concacaf will earn spots for the Olympics in Tokyo. The top two teams each from Group A and Group B will advance to a semifinal knockout round that will decide who heads to Japan. A final will be played between the remaining two teams, but both teams will have already qualified for the Olympics.
The qualification tournament will be played starting March 20 in Guadalajara, Mexico. The men’s Olympic soccer tournament will begin July 23 in Japan.
The men’s Olympic soccer tournament, unlike the women’s, is not a fully senior team event — instead it features U-23 teams but allows slots of up to three veterans aged 23 and older per team. After the roster turnover caused by failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, however, much of the USMNT’s core consists of under-23 players.
The U.S. men haven’t qualified for the Olympic soccer tournament since 2008, having been knocked out of 2016’s qualification tournament by Honduras and not even advancing past the group stage in 2012.