US men’s U-20s defeat Honduras to secure a spot at Paris Olympics

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An Olympic men’s soccer bed doesn’t come close to doing justice to the importance of qualifying for the World Cup, but the US program’s inability to secure passage to the Summer Games had become a source of the four-year embarrassment.

On Friday, the Americans ended their losing streak in impressive fashion, scoring three goals before the break and beating Honduras 3-0 to claim their first Olympic spot since 2008.

The breakthrough came in the semi-finals of the Concacaf U-20 tournament in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, which served as both a qualifier for the 2023 U-20 World Cup in Indonesia and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Paxten Aaronson (Philadelphia Union) scored in the third minute, Alejandro Alvarado Jr. (Vizela, Portugal) extended the lead in the 22nd minute and Quinn Sullivan (Philadelphia Union) added a goal in the 43rd minute.

The Dominican Republic, an afterthought in pre-tournament predictions, secured Concacaf’s other place by beating Guatemala 4-2 on penalties after going from a regular two-goal deficit to a 2-2 draw. had come back a draw.

All four semi-finalists qualified for the U-20 World Cup. On Sunday, the Americans will look to win their third consecutive Concacaf U-20 title.

To prevent him from stealing the thunder from the World Cup, men’s Olympic football has been an under-23 competition (with the exception of three squads) since 1992. Though the Summer Games lacks the prestige of the World Cup, the United States, a 2000 Olympic semifinalist, failed to even qualify in their last three attempts and four of five attempts.

Usually the qualifying tournament includes U23 teams, but Concacaf decided to move to a younger age group, hold a doubles competition and stage the event earlier in the four-year Olympic cycle.

With a roster of many homegrown MLS players, the Americans have a 5-0-1 record and a goal difference of 25-2 in this tournament.

They got off to a dream start on Friday with a goal from Aaronson, the younger brother of USA forward Brenden Aaronson. Brandan Craig served a free-kick that Aaronson deflected into the net from close range for his fifth goal of the tournament.

Midway through the half, Mauricio Cuevas set up Alvarado for a one-timer deep in the box. And just before halftime, Sullivan tapped the ball after Caden Clark rounded the keeper and placed a low shot on target.

Honduras applied pressure in the second half, but Chris Brady recorded the team’s fifth shutout. Craig hit the post with a free-kick in the 83rd minute and Honduras’ Jefryn MacĂ­as was shown a red card in the 87th minute.

The loss ended Honduras’ streak of four consecutive Olympic appearances. In each of the previous two qualifying tournaments, the Hondurans defeated the United States in the semifinals of qualifying.

DC United midfielder Jackson Hopkins, who turned 18 on Friday, came on in the 71st minute.

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