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Bulls Abroad: USA U-23s' Olympic qualifying bid stalled by Honduras

Oh. Dear.

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

It was all going so well for the USA U-23s in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying: three games played in the group stage, three games won; 13 goals scored, just two conceded. The team was a steamroller. Brazil was in sight.

Unfortunately, it would appear the standard of play in Group A was not representative of upper-echelon CONCACAF U-23 teams. Honduras had looked good in Group B - good enough to run Mexico close - and the team looked good against the USA. In particular, Alberth Elis (who won't turn 20 until February) looked good, twice finding the net with confident finishing. And 22-year-old Luis Lopez looked good in keeping the US off the scoresheet. Honduras won, 2-0.

Los Catrachos will be worthy representatives of CONCACAF in Brazil. They have some of the more exciting young prospects in the region in this U-23 squad. The biggest concern regarding the Honduras selection for the Olympics will be how many of those young players might be called away for senior national team duty. Hopefully they are allowed to enjoy the experience in Brazil that they just earned for themselves in Utah.

For the USA, this tournament will now end exactly as it started: against Canada with no guarantee of qualification for the Olympics. The two semifinal-stage losers must face-off to decide who will claim third-place in this competition, and that third-placed team will then play Colombia's U-23s in March to see who gets to sneak into the Olympic tournament.

This not what a team thought to be at least second-best in the region and gifted a qualifying competition on home soil was expecting. But there is no time to dwell on disappointment. For Matt Miazga and the USA U-23s, there is still an open path to Brazil and the Olympics. The task now is to stay on that path by beating Canada.