By Michael Lewis Editor

The U.S. Under-23 national team failed to reach the Olympics soccer tournament.

And the sun also rises.

The 2-1 loss to Honduras stings, perhaps even more because it was the third consecutive Olympics tournament that the Americans could not reach.

The last time the USA reached the Olympics was 13 years ago in 2008, when Freddy Adu was 18-years-old and one of the key members of the squad. Since then, the Under-23 team has tasted nothing but failure trying to qualify, missing out in 2012 and 2016.

I must address apologists on social media that say that it isn’t horrible the U.S. did not qualify.

It is.

It is a missed opportunity, an opportunity to play against the best in the world at your age group in an international tournament in front of sizable crowds (hopefully), playing under even more pressure. Every international match prepares players for the next level, whether it is with his or her club or national team.

If you think otherwise, you don’t understand soccer history.

In 2000, the American men actually superseded the USWNT at the Sydney Summer Games.

As defending Olympic gold medalists (1996), the U.S. women were expected to win it all. They experienced a bumpy tournament before losing to then archrival Norway in extratime in the gold medal match, one of the greatest women’s international games ever played.

Given the U.S. men’s sorry history at previous Summer Games, not much was expected of that side.


Coached by Clive Charles, the Americans went on a roll. They won their group with an undefeated 1-0-2 record. They surprised Japan in an epic quarterfinal win, prevailing in a shootout, to reach the medal round for the first time.

The USA was brought down to earth with loses to Spain in the semifinals and Chile in the bronze-medal match. But who would have believed or bet any money prior to the opening kickoff in September 2000 that the Americans had any chance to accomplish that?

Many of those U-23 players on the U.S. team went on to prosperous careers in professional soccer for club and even country.

Maybe you have heard of some of them:

Landon Donovan

Josh Wolff

Chris Albright

Danny Califf

Ben Olsen

John O’Brien

Peter Vagenas

Sasha Victorine

The 2008 team, which came within a whisker of reaching the quarterfinals in Beijing, had some names you might be familiar with:

Jozy Altidore

Michael Bradley

Dax McCarty

Maurice Edu

Benny Feilhaber

Stuart Holden

Danny Szetela

Charlie Davies

Robbie Rogers

Sacha Kljestan

Now, I’m not saying the Olympics catapulted these players and their teammates into instead fame and stardom, but every game, every international match, every tournament played under pressure helps build a player.

Failing to reach Tokyo was another opportunity lost for the U.S.