On Tuesday CONCACAF announced the preliminary rosters for the upcoming Olympic qualifying tournaments. Two members of the New York Red Bulls, fullback Kyle Duncan and attacking midfielder Caden Clark, have been named to the 50-player list for the United States.
This group will be culled down to a final 20-player roster ten days before the first match in Guadalajara, Mexico on March 18. The winner and runner-up of the tournament will qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics (still scheduled for now to take place in Japan later this year) joining fourteen other nations including defending gold medalist Brazil at the finals.
Between the pair, Duncan is the only one with significant international experience. The RBNY academy product made his senior national debut as a substitute and played out the final sixteen minutes in a 6-0 rout of El Salvador last October. Previously, he’d been called up and appeared for the youth national team at the U-18, U-20, and U-23 level. Since joining the Red Bulls as a preseason trialist in 2018 after an aborted career in France, Duncan has become a first team regular in his native New York, with 2020 his best season yet.
Clark has had interactions with the youth national team previously without becoming a fixture at any level. The Minnesota native has made appearances with the U-17 squad but never made an official cap during a match. Additionally in late 2019, while he was still a member of the Barça Residency Academy, Clark was called into the USSF’s U-16 boys national team talent identification camp.
The 17-year-old became impossible to ignore in 2020 after standout performances for the Red Bulls at USL and MLS level. In around 900 minutes for the reserve team in the second division, the midfielder scored three goals and led the team with five assists. Following a brief delay to acquire homegrown transfer rights from Minnesota, Clark burst onto the professional scene with long range goals in his opening two MLS matches against Atlanta and Toronto. It is currently being reported that Clark will join fellow homegrown Tyler Adams at RB Leipzig following the 2021 season.
Should one or both players be called in for the eventual tournament next month, it would prove a small-but-significant challenge to Gerhard Struber’s Red Bulls. Despite the loan signing of Tom Edwards from Stoke City, Duncan remains the team’s incumbent starting fullback, while Clark looks primed to see significant action in attacking midfield roles if the club does not sign a replacement for the apparently-departed Kaku in the coming weeks. Losing either would interrupt a preseason in which the detail-minded Struber hopes to once again instill his tactical system into a new team quickly.
This will be the fifteenth edition of the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, sometimes referred to as the CONCACAF Men’s U-23 Championship. The U.S. has never earned an Olympic medal in men’s football since it’s switch to Under-23 players in 1992 and will be looking to reach the finals of the summer games for the first time since a group stage exit at the Beijing games of 2008.