Monday's soccer news starts with the International Olympic Committee officially rescheduling the Tokyo games from July 23 through August 8, 2021. Concacaf is the only region that has yet to qualify teams for the men's soccer tournament.
"These new dates give the health authorities and all involved in the organization of the Games the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," the official statement reads. "The new dates, exactly one year after those originally planned for 2020 (Olympic Games: 24 July to 9 August 2020 and Paralympic Games: 25 August to 6 September 2020), also have the added benefit that any disruption that the postponement will cause to the international sports calendar can be kept to a minimum, in the interests of the athletes and the IFs. Additionally, they will provide sufficient time to finish the qualification process. The same heat mitigation measures as planned for 2020 will be implemented."
Concacaf now has one piece of the qualifying puzzle in place, though it was a safe expectation that the IOC wasn't going to radically alter the schedule. They made it clear that the Tokyo Olympics could happen at any point in 2021 with rumors of a move to Spring, but that seemed unlikely considering the global sports calendar. Now, Concacaf needs FIFA to officially confirm that the men's Olympic soccer tournament is now a U-24 competition.
It's worth the reminder that the status of U-23 international soccer is not uniformly embraced around the world. UEFA qualifies its teams through the previous year's U-21 championship with France, Germany, Romania, and Spain advancing from the 2019 tournament. CONMEBOL just switched back to a U-23 tournament for this Olympic cycle after also using their U-21 tournament for the four previous Olympics. The reason is simple. The U-21 tournaments are long-established with the Olympic tournaments adding yet another event to the calendar.
Since teams are not beholden to the rosters that they used in qualifying plus the addition of three overage players should they advance, that only adds to the issues with men's Olympic soccer. Though there's no discounting the honor of playing in the Olympics, it creates an interesting situation for clubs. Players normally want to go, but the Olympics are not an official release window. Neither is the Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Championship, an issue that became clear when some MLS clubs opted against releasing players.
Rosters are likely to change regardless of what happens with the age issue. The expectation is FIFA will acquiesce to what is officially an Australian appeal to extend the age limit. Once that happens and Concacaf announces a date for qualifying, USMNT coach Jason Kreis will once again be in roster building mode. That requires convincing teams that releasing players is worth it for them. It's not a straight ahead discussion and part of the challenge in getting a USMNT team qualified. With full player availability, the USMNT U-23s should be a force in Concacaf. As we saw with the roster for the postponed qualifying tournament, that's not only unlikely it borders on the impossible.
The NY Times' Tariq Panja argues that soccer clubs owe their cities and towns more. The Independent's Miguel Delaney reports on a plan to salvage the Premier League season. The Guardian's Paul Wilson explains the situation for clubs struggling economically. Bloomberg's Eyk Henning, Jan-Henrik Foerster, and Sarah Syed report on the Bundesliga's financial issues. DW's look back at how Kaiserslautern won the Bundesliga in 1997-98.
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