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U.S. Olympic men’s soccer coach talks over-age players

Andi Herzog

RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 26: Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann (L) and assistant coach Andreas Herzog of the United States react during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil group G match between the United States and Germany at Arena Pernambuco on June 26, 2014 in Recife, Brazil. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

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Should the U.S. under-23 men’s soccer team qualify for the Olympics in October (and that is by no means assured given it failed four years ago), coach Andi Herzog and US Soccer face an interesting question.

Which (maximum of) three players born before 1993 will be added to the Olympic roster?

That decision would be made some time after the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in October, where only U23 players are allowed and the semifinal winners in Sandy, Utah, will qualify for the Olympics. The third-place nation will advance to a playoff against a South American nation for a final Olympic berth.

ProSoccerTalk gauged Herzog’s early thoughts on over-age players in an interview this week. Click here for the full Q&A.

PST: Over-age players: is there a shortlist yet? Any timeline for that?

Herzog: No, not yet. First we have to qualify and then I have to see which player could help me most and if I have a position where I need leaders. Maybe an attacking leader, defensive leader or a goalkeeper. I didn’t make any thoughts about this right now. First we have to qualify, then we have enough time. It doesn’t make sense if I say now for next August he is my over-age player for the Olympics and then one year later he is injured and it’s not working.

That is a normal question. First we have to qualify and of course we have a great chance to qualify. I am optimistic but first we have to do our job.

U.S. senior national team World Cup players have been named as over-age additions in the past (Brian McBride in 2008, Brad Friedel in 2000).

In particular, Friedel’s addition in 2000 meant that Tim Howard, then 21, spent every minute of the Sydney Olympic soccer tournament on the bench. The U.S. finished fourth.

Howard turns 37 in March and could be an option for Rio 2016 to finally earn an Olympic appearance (on the field) and to return to Brazil, where he performed so spectacularly at the 2014 World Cup.

The man Howard is competing with to be the U.S. senior No. 1 goalie, Brad Guzan, already got his Olympic experience in 2008. Guzan was recently named the starter over Howard for a U.S.-Mexico Confederations Cup playoff Oct. 10.

If Guzan remains the U.S. No. 1 for Copa America Centenario in June, that may have a side effect of keeping Howard fresh for a potential Olympic slate in August.

That is, if US Soccer (and, perhaps, Howard) are OK with an over-age goalie relegating to the bench the goalie that helped the U.S. qualify for the Olympics. Howard is familiar with that scenario from 2000.

Obstacles for Tim Howard to return to the Olympics

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