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U.S. Soccer learns group opponents for October’s Olympic qualifying tournament

Press Conference Marking Two Years to Go to the Rio 2016 Olympics Opening Ceremony

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U.S. Soccer learned its path to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, and it won’t be easy.

Group play for Olympic qualifying is slated for Oct. 1-6, and the Yanks’ U-23 side will face Canada, Cuba and Panama in Group A.

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The States play Canada on Oct. 1 and Cuba on Oct. 3, with both games at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas, before a power match-up with Panama on Oct. 6 in Colorado.

Here are the thoughts of U.S. boss Andi Herzog, courtesy U.S. Soccer:

“Now we know what’s ahead of us,” head coach Andi Herzog said. “It’s an interesting group and strong group and we want to win and advance. Canada we’ve looked at and we know they have some strong players in MLS. Panama is also strong and Cuba, we saw this summer in the Gold Cup, has some young players we expect to face in this tournament. In the end it’s an interesting group and we’re excited.”

It’s a tough bunch, especially given some of the young talent on each roster. In Canada’s case, for example, some of its best and brightest (See: Larin, Cyle) can fit on the U-23 roster. It’ll be supremely interesting to see which overage players are chosen for Herzog’s unit.

Of course, the Yanks under Caleb Porter 2012 failed to make the 2012 Olympics. Porter’s unit lost to Canada, beat Cuba and drew El Salvador, unable to progress from group play.

Group B finds Mexico, Honduras, Haiti, and the winner of the UNCAF playoff between Costa Rica and Guatemala. The top two teams in each group move onto the semifinals. Both finalists will go to the Olympics, while the winner of the third-place game with face Colombia for CONCACAF’s final spot in Brazil.

Full USA Group A Schedule:
Oct. 1 - USA vs. Canada, 8 p.m. CT, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan.
Oct. 3 - USA vs. Cuba, 4 p.m. CT, Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan.
Oct. 6 - USA vs. Panama, 7:30 p.m. MT, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo.

Oct. 10 Semi-Finals, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. MT, Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah
Oct. 13 Third Place Game, 5 p.m. MT, Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah
Oct. 13 Final, 5 p.m. MT, Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah

Follow @NicholasMendola